§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (EARL BEAUCHAMP)
My Lords, in asking your Lordships to give a Second Reading to this Bill this afternoon I do not think it will be necessary for me to detain you at any great length by a disquisition on the general ethics of Disestablishment or how far it is morally equitable for a State to disestablish a Church. We on this side of the House at any rate are of opinion that granted certain premisses and given certain conditions that question has already been settled by the disestablishment of the Church in Ireland. Therefore, in the beginning at any rate the point to which I should wish to direct your Lordships' attention is whether the conditions in Wales meet the conditions of which I have already spoken, and whether the premisses which were laid down and were granted during the discussions in 1869 are fairly met by the conditions in Wales to-day. No one who reads the debate which took place then can doubt that there were two main points which were set before your Lordships in some detail. In the first place a great deal was made of the point that the majority of the people in Ireland demanded the disestablishment of the Church; and, in the second place, that the Church itself was no more than the Church of the minority.
1015 Let us for a few moments consider how far the first of these conditions is met by the condition of affairs in Wales to-day. I think it would be impossible for anybody to deny the fact that the people of Wales through their elected representatives in the House of Commons demand to-day, as they have demanded for a great deal more than a generation, the disestablishment of the Church of England in Wales. Without wearying your Lordships with a series of figures, it will he sufficient to say that in the eight General Elections which have last taken place the average return of Members of Parliament in favour of Disestablish-meat has been no less than twenty-nine, while the average minority against Disestablishment has always been under five —to be accurate, it has been between four and five. Now, is it possible to maintain that there has been no mandate upon this question? The right rev. Prelates who represent Wales in this House have over and over again in Wales, as well as in England, emphasised the danger in which the Church was in that country if either in January, 1910, or in December 1910, a majority was returned in favour of Disestablishment. But, in spite of all their efforts, in January, 1910, there were no less than 206,000 votes in favour of Disestablishment and only 97,000 against it, and although the figures were somewhat smaller in the December election of the same year that was chiefly due to the fact that no less than twelve seats were uncontested—that is to say, there was no Conservative candidate for any one of those twelve seats.
It is impossible, I think, to say that Wales has in any way changed her demand. Certainly it is impossible to say that there was any slackening in her demand for Disestablishment in December as compared with January. I hope that the most rev. Prelate—he is not in his place at the moment—who a fortnight ago laid so much stress upon the necessity of consulting the wishes of Ulster, of one small corner in Ireland, will remember when he comes to discuss the question of Wales the almost universal demand of the people of that country that the Church in Wales should be disestablished. I do not think that it is possible for any one who believes in representative Government to deny the fact that there is this vast majority in Wales in favour of Disestablishment. By every test which you can apply the people 1016 in Wales have over and over again asked that the Church should be disestablished, and although it is quite easy to get together great meetings either in the North or the South of Wales to protest against such a measure as this—and I think the organisers would be much to blame in these days of easy locomotion if they could not get together an isolated meeting here and there against a particular measure—still, whatever isolated meetings may say, the people of Wales, speaking through their elected representatives, declare that they are now, as they have been for so long, anxious for the disestablishment of the Church.
Then the other great point on which so much stress was laid in 1869 was that the Church was in a small minority. We were told that it was the Church of the minority. That is equally the case with regard to the Church in Wales to-day, though I confess it is with very real reluctance that I give your Lordships these figures which go to show that in Wales the Church of England does not meet with that measure of success which all her well-wishers must desire. I take as far as possible figures admitted by everybody in this controversy. Communicants of the Church of England number some 193,000 out of a population of over 2,000,000, and Nonconformists—the full members, not including the children or adherents—550,000, or over 25 per cent. of the population. One arrives at the same result by a different road. Archdeacon Owen Evans and Lord Hugh Cecil in their Memorandum attached to the Report of the Royal Commission on the Church in Wales admitted that the total adherents of the four larger Nonconformist denominations amounted to over 1,000,000 in 1906. That is to say, the four denominations alone amounted to more than half the population at the previous census, and if we take 25 per cent. as the proportion which owes no allegiance to any religious denomination and estimate the adherents of the other Nonconformist denominations on the same basis and exclude Roman Catholics, one arrives at the result that the total adherents of the Church of England in Wales must be under 400,000—that is to say, less than 20 per cent. of the population.
The unfortunate thing from this point of view is that it is impossible to maintain that the Church of England in Wales is 1017 a large and a growing denomination, keeping its rate of increase at anything like the same level as the increase in the population. There are some interesting figures which have lately been published and which, not having been challenged, I think we may take as accurate. The official figures of the Church of England in 1603 and also in 1676 show that it was practically co-extensive with the Welsh nation, whereas now the adherents are not more than one-fifth. The figures for 1603 and 1676 are taken from returns which were made by the Welsh Bishops in those years, and which are now at the British Museum. There were 212,000 communicants in 1603. In 1676 there were 180,000; in the year 1906 there were only 193,000 communicants. That result is arrived at after 300 years of work. Then from the same returns one gets, as regards the first two sets of figures, returns of the three principal Nonconformist denominations. In 1603 the total was 808, and in 1676 it was 3,969. Then, taking a considerable jump and coining to the year 1861 we find that the numbers of the same denominations were 239,000. In 1882 they were 321,000; in 1895, 385,000; in 1900, 410,000; and in 1910, 480,000. I give these figures because they go to show that the statement which is so often made on Church Defence platforms that the Church of England is the only increasing religious body in Wales is not accurate as a matter of fact. I have taken purposely the figures which do not include those years which are affected by the Revival in Wales. Though I am not anxious to lay too much stress on any particular set of figures, I do say that they show the tendency in Wales and that the Church of England to-day is the Church of the minority in Wales.
There is another and not unimportant analogy between the situation to-day and the situation in 1869. There were a number of very wild prophecies made at that time. The noble Lord who was then leading the Opposition in this House, Lord Cairns, was of opinion that the Bill for the Disestablishment of the Church in Ireland, instead of pacifying the Irish, would sow broadcast in that country a new and plentiful crop of angry passions, ungoverned jealousies, bitter and revengeful memories, which would soon ripen into a harvest of evil that they would have to reap even as they had sown. Even the Archbishop of Dublin, just before Irish 1018 Disestablishment in the year 1869, was of opinion that—If you overthrow the Irish Established Church you will put to the Irish Protestants the choice between apostasy and expatriation, and every man among them who has money or position when he sees his Church go will leave the country. If you do that you will find Ireland so difficult to manage that you will have to depend upon the gibbet and the sword.We are encouraged, when we hear some of these pessimistic prophecies of the result of our Bill, by the knowledge that somewhat similar prophecies were made in 1869; and as they were false in those days we trust that there will be a better result from this Bill than these melancholy prophets seem to expect.
There are one or two other aspects of the Second Reading debate on the Irish Church Bill to which I think it is desirable to call your Lordships' attention. On that occasion the most rev. Primate the then Archbishop of Canterbury abstained from voting against the Bill, while the Marquess of Hartington of the day voted in favour of the Bill in another place. Moreover, the then Duke of Devonshire spoke and voted in this House in favour of the Bill, because it was in his opinion contrary to justice to place in a state of superiority a Church which was accepted by a small minority. I am sure also I need not remind the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, that on that occasion his father voted in favour of the passage of the Bill, and made a speech which is to-day full of interest to any one who takes any interest in this subject. Last, but not least, the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition in this House to-day voted in favour of the Bill in that year. I am sure it will be of special interest to all of us in this House to hear from the noble Marquess himself what are the conditions which are different in Wales, and why it is that if he supported and voted for the Bill in 1869 he thinks the conditions in Wales are so different to-day that he is unable to support the present Bill. After all, it is our duty to consider what the exact phrase Establishment or Disestablishment means. The establishment of a Church does not consist only in this or that isolated case. It is not merely that the Bishops have seats in the House of Lords nor that Convocation is summoned by Letters from the Sovereign. It consists far more in that the Church is placed by the State in an attitude of privilege. It is placed in a position different from that 1019 which is accorded to other denominations, and in this country, at any rate, the disestablishment of the Church has been going on for a good many years. Every Act which is passed by this House which takes away a privilege which until then was enjoyed solely by members of the Church of England is to some extent an Act of Disestablishment, and those things have been going on for a very large number of years. This Bill, therefore, will go far to make the facts of the case the same at the theory.
This Bill for the disestablishment of the Church in Wales is not a Bill for the disestablishment of all religions, nor is it a Bill even for the disestablishment of Christianity. Lord Selborne undoubtedly remembers a speech made by his father in the House of Commons in which he opposed the idea that the disestablishment of the Church, or that the severance of its political relations with the State, involved in any way an Act of national apostasy. That being so, we venture to say that we are able to prove to your Lordships, first of all, that the majority of people in Wales have asked for the disestablishment of the Church, and, in the second place, that it is the Church of a minority of the people of that country. Therefore we say that the present position is a false one, and one which is absurd. Here is an unwilling partnership. These two great partners are yoked together in an unwilling and an unequal yoke. On the one hand you have the Church which insists on this partnership against the wish of the people of Wales, and on the other hand you have the State which is anxious for release and the disestablishment of the Church. You have the Church forcing itself upon the people of Wales against their wish, fighting to maintain its position of privilege, and diverting its energies from the welfare of the people of Wales. Therefore we venture to say they are not necessarily true friends of the Church who are anxious to maintain it in its present position of privilege at this time. We are anxious to see the friction which undoubtedly exists at present removed so that the Church may be freer to turn its attention to the welfare of the people in that country. We would wish to see the Church of England in Wales become, not the Church of England in Wales, but the Church of Wales and the Church of the Welsh people.
1020 Now I turn to what has been the result of the disestablishment of the Church in Ireland. I have already quoted to your Lordships passages from various people who had the gloomiest anticipations of what the result would be. We are fortunate in being able to quote to-day from those whose testimony will be accepted even by noble Lords opposite as to the result of Disestablishment in that country. The disestablishment of the Church in Ireland was, perhaps, the greatest of the legislative achievements of Mr. Gladstone. His policy with regard to Irish land brought with it no settlement of the question. His policy with regard to education has been followed by a great many controversies and by a great deal of strife; but it is almost the universal testimony of those who are interested in the welfare of the Church in Ireland that Disestablishment was a measure which was much needed, and has done good even to the Church itself. I take a quotation from Archbishop Plunket, of Dublin, who used these words—When I count up the advantages which have followed Disestablishment; when I think of the renewed strength and vitality which our Church has derived from the admission of the laity to an active and responsible participation in her counsels, in the disposition of her patronage, and in the financial departments of her work; when I observe the spirit of unity and mutual respect which has been engendered by the ordeal of our common adversity, and the increased loyalty and love which are being daily shown to their Mother Church by those who have hail to make some sacrifice on her behalf; when I remember, too, the freedom from agrarian complications which our disconnection from all questions of tithe and tithe-rent charge has brought about, and the more favourable attitude as regards our influence upon the surrounding population which we occupy because of her severance from any State connection—when I remember all this counterpoise of advantage which we enjoy in our new and independent position, and when I try to hold the balance evenly and weigh the losses and the gains of the whole, I say boldly and without reserve that, in my opinion at least, the gain outweighs the loss.To that, and to expressions of opinion like that, we on this side of the House attach the greatest importance. It comes, let me remind you, from no less a person than the Archbishop of Dublin, and it would he easy to quote to your Lordships passages from men holding high position in the Church of Ireland itself who are satisfied with the result of Disestablishment in that country.
It is not only in Ireland that this severance has been effected; it is no new thing in politics, and we venture to say 1021 that wherever it has taken place ultimately, and generally without any great loss of time, the Church itself has benefited from that separation. Whether it was in Canada, where the system of State aid to religion was brought to an end in 1865; or in Ceylon, where it was brought to an end in 1881; or in New South Wales, where it was brought to an end in 1850; or in Jamaica, where the abolition of State aid took place in 1870—we find in every case than there has been a general testimony of approval in later years, even from the members of the Church itself. In fact, we say we are entitled to challenge the noble Lord who will follow me and ask him where, when this system of voluntary agency has been tried, it has been proved a failure. I ant tempted to quote yet one more extract because it affects a country in which I am specially interested, and that is the opinion of the Bishop of Ballarat. Speaking of the Disestablished Church in Ireland, when in Dublin in 1896, he used these words—I am here to-day after living for twenty years within and helping in the administration of an unendowed and unestablished Church, and I will say that, however great the disadvantages of such a condition of affairs are to the State, I am not prepared to say that they are a disadvantage to the spiritual well-being and prosperity of the Church herself, I for one should he very sorry to take any price I can think of for the freedom of administration and government which we enjoy, the power to promote reforms, and the power of adaptation more difficult to secure where there is a State connection.Now let me turn to the provisions of the Bill itself. Your Lordships will see that the operative part is contained within the first few clauses—the first clause, which formally declares the Church disestablished; and the third clause, which declares that, as front the date of Disestablishment, Ecclesiastical Courts and persons must cease to exercise any jurisdiction. We find that Disendowment follows in the next four clauses of the Bill—Clauses 4, 5, 6 and 7—and your Lordships, perhaps, will expect me to explain these provisions at some length. The property of the Church of England in Wales consists of two classes. In the first place, there is the income-producing property, and then there is the non-income-producing property. Let, me take the last class first. The non-income-producing property consists of four classes—Church fabrics, fabric funds, parsonage houses, and burial grounds. The first three classes are entirely and without reserve made over to the new 1022 Church in Wales, while the burial grounds provided since 1662, and any closed burial ground which it may be desired to transfer, will also be transferred to the Church. With regard to the income of the Church, your Lordships will see that this is to be divided according to its source, and the sources of all the property of the Church will be found in the evidence of Sir Lewis Dibdin before the Royal Commission in Vols. 2 and 3, and also from certain Returns which he has presented.
Your Lordships will wish to know the result of the Disendowment clauses. In the first place, may I remind you that the income of the Church in Wales to-day is £260,000 a year. Out of that there will be the following sums retained by the Church. First of all the annual value of the property which will be transferred by the Welsh Commissioners. That amounts to £34,101, and includes all the income front private benefactions. There is also the income derived front grants made by the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty out of the Parliament Grants Fund, and one-third of the income derived from grants made by the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty from the Royal Bounty Fund. Then there will be the annual value of property transferred to the Church by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners—that amounts to just under £50,000—and the annual value of property transferred to the Church by Queen Anne's Bounty, which is £18,000. In addition to that there will be the grants which are made by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and also by Queen Anne's Bounty Fund. Until now both of these bodies have made an annual grant to the Church of England in Wales, not to be spent as income, but to be made part of the capital sum, the income of which only has been spent on behalf of the Church'. But I now understand from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners that they will be willing to make over that sum as an annual amount to be spent by the Church itself. Your Lordships will see that the total amount that comes to the Church, including the last sum I have mentioned, is something over £134,000. The first amount is £102,000 to which we add the sum of money I have mentioned as having hitherto been paid in as capital—£31,000—making a total, roughly speaking, of £134,000.
But that does not end the total amount. In addition to that there are provisions 1023 put in the Bill by which the life interest may be commuted. Before that was done every provision was made in the Bill for safeguarding the life interests of those who at the present moment hold benefices in the Church of England in Wales. Now, very largely in response to a demand which has been made on behalf of the Church, the system of commutation has been introduced into the Bill by which a sum of money, amounting roughly speaking to £2,000,000, may be paid over to the representative body if they demand it, and the representative body will have full control of the income which will arise from that sum of money, and which we calculate will be about £75,000 a year. So that your Lordships will see that, having added all these various sums together, the net deficit which remains and which will have to be met by the people in Wales—the real amount of disendowment from which they will suffer—is a sum of £51,338 a year. It is fair to point out that at the present time the voluntary income of the Church of England in Wales amounts to something like £296,000. It will be necessary to add £51,000 a year to that, and then the Church will he receiving exactly the amount which she receives to-day. That is to say, one-sixth must be added to voluntary contributions which are made to-day. Every person who pays of his own accord 20s. to-day for the purposes of the Church in Wales will find, if he increases his subscription for every 20s. he has been in the habit of giving to 23s. 4d., that the Church will be no sufferer and will not lose by Disestablishment. In these circumstances I venture to say it is quite impossible for any noble Lord to contend that we are not treating the Church in Wales generously. As a matter of fact, the treatment given under this Bill compares most favourably with the terms which were given to the Irish Church. The figures which the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition no doubt thought generous and fair in the case of the Irish Church in 1869 seem astonishingly small to-day. The capital of the Irish Church amounted to £16,000,000. What did the noble Marquess in those days think it fair and generous to give the Irish Church? A capital sum of £500,000 out of £16,000,000, and in addition to that, of course, large sums were paid in commutation. Compare that with what we are doing for the Church of England in Wales. Out of £260,000 a year which is now the income of the 1024 Welsh Church she will retain absolutely and at her own disposal £133,000 a year in addition to the commutation which is added. It is almost difficult to compare the terms which were given to the Irish Church with the terms which are given to the Church of England in Wales under this Bill, but if we do compare them it will be recognised that what those who supported the Irish Bill thought were generous terms would, probably, have received even greater abuse than our terms have received from the Episcopal Bench to-day.
Your Lordships are aware that there are a certain number of people who are advocates of a system of concurrent endowment. They say, "If you take these things away from the Church you ought at any rate to offer the money to the Nonconformists."If that were possible, and if it were likely to be accepted by the Nonconformists, it might be a policy which would be seriously considered by this House. But those bodies to whom this money would be payable refuse to have anything to say to it, and therefore that policy becomes impracticable. We are entitled, in considering the disposal of surplus funds, to consider their wishes and to ask whether the disposal we suggest of the surplus funds is such as they approve of. We believe that that is so, and if you compare the way in which the surplus of the Irish Church funds was disposed of with the way in which we dispose of the surplus of the funds of the Welsh Church—I think in Clause 19 —your Lordships will see that after all there is very little to compare in the different objects. Noble Lords opposite themselves passed Acts by which they have taken large sums of money from the surplus of the Irish Church in order to spend on objects which, however you look at them, cannot possibly, I think, be called religious. Having compared the position at the present time in regard to Wales with the position in the case of the Irish Church, I am anxious to call your Lordships' attention to one or two definite instances, and especially to an instance which was given by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London. The right rev. Prelate spoke at Wrexham, and was reported in the Advertiser of the next morning as having used these words—Why should Canon Davies, the vicar of Wrexham, have his income reduced to £13 a year? What had the poor man done to deserve that?
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
My Lords, if I may I will reply later to the noble Earl, and that will save interrupting him now.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I need hardly say that this statement of the right rev. Prelate was wholly inaccurate. At the time he spoke the life interests of Canon Davies were guarded. He would during his tenure of the vicarage of Wrexham receive as much after the disestablishment of the Church as before.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
Then it is perfectly obvious that Canon Davies is going to receive a great deal more than £13 a year, and that his income is not going to be reduced to that amount. The right rev. Prelate knew that this provision was in the Bill, and yet he suggested to the people of Wrexham that the income of Canon Davies was to be reduced to £13 a year. The facts of the matter are very different. It was an error in the episcopal arithmetic of something like 500 per cent. Canon Davies will retain the parsonage house and a sum of no less than £131 a year, instead of the £13 to which the right rev. Prelate made reference. That is not the worst of it. I can quite imagine that when the right rev. Prelate spoke he was thinking of Canon Davies's successor. But it was equally incorrect of Canon Davies's successor, who will also receive £131 a year, and now—though naturally the right rev. Prelate did not know it at the time—he will be entitled to receive more if the life interest is commuted. If confess that, I deplore inaccuracy in episcopal arithmetic of this kind.
Now I go on with the quotation from the right rev. Prelate's speech. He said—Why should the clergy in the rural deanery from which my old friend Archdeacon Fletcher came, except in the case of two parishes, have every single sixpence taken? My blood boils when I hear such a thing suggested.Let us see exactly what does happen in the rural deanery from which Archdeacon Fletcher comes. I found some little trouble in tracing Archdeacon Fletcher because he had removed from one rural deanery to another, and perhaps it will be best if I give the figures for both rural deaneries, so that we may have no mistakes. At 1026 that time Archdeacon Fletcher was working in the rural deanery of Bangor Is-y-Coed, in which there are ten parishes, the total endowments of which are £3,856. I admit at once that there are a very large number of parishes in that rural deanery which will lose their endowments; but instead of "all except two," it is all except four, and in those cases they retain £701 out of the £3,857. I am, however, entitled to remind your Lordships that they will receive in addition to that the commutation, which will be calculated upon the difference between the two sums. Then there is the rural deanery of Wrexham, to which some of the newspapers reported the right rev. Prelate as having referred, and where the figures are different. In that rural deanery there are no less than sixteen parishes, and they will retain a sum of £3,431 out of a total of £6,317. They will retain always £3,431 out of the total of £6,317, and if you add the commutation to that they will have a total of £4,643.
I confess that I have found this inquiry into the rural deaneries somewhat interesting, and I pursued it with regard to two rural deaneries of a very different character. They were the rural deaneries of Rhondda and of Cardiff, and I shall give your Lordships the figures of both. The rural deanery of Rhondda, with a population of 148,000, has a total endowment of £3,056 a year. There are twelve parishes, of which only two will be affected. The total endowments which are alienated under this Bill from the £3,056 a year amount to no more than £20. That is to say, the rural deanery of Rhondda will find it necessary to make up only £20 a year in order that the Church may be in the same position after disestablishment as she is in to-day. In the rural deanery of Cardiff the amount alienated is only £571, out of a total endowment of £3,041. Of course it is quite easy to take figures either from one extreme or the other extreme, but the average is, after all, what your Lordships should look to if you wish to see what the result of the Bill will be on the finances of the Church of England in Wales. One of the great advantages of the Bill will be that the Church will be free to reorganise her endowments in such a way as she thinks best, and instead of having large sums of money attached to vicarages and rectories in isolated parts where there are very small congregations, and, on the other hand, having no endowments in places where 1027 there are large congregations and where endowments are urgently needed, she will be able to reorganize as she thinks best and see that the endowments are used where they are most needed. That, I claim, is not a small advantage to the Church as one result of this Bill.
There was a speech made in the year 1886 in a debate on this subject in the House of Commons by the noble Earl on the Cross Benches (Lord Grey), to which I shall refer in a few moments. In the course of that speech he said—It was monstrous and indefensible that the revenues intended for the religions instruction of the whole people should have been appropriated to the exclusive use of a small and wealthy minority.He spoke of it as being a monstrous injustice and a scandal. This Bill does something to remove that injustice and scandal. For my own part I confess that I am not, like Canon Moberley, deeply concerned as to what may or may not be the origin of tithes, and how far many hundred years ago they may or may not have been voluntarily given by wealthy landowners. What I think is far more important for the welfare to-day of the Church of England in Wales is that she will be at liberty under this Bill to apply the endowments where they are most wanted. I think that the chief criticism which we have to meet upon this point relates to the fact that we do not do anything for curates. Quite frankly we say one reason for that is because of the experience after the disestablishment of the Church in Ireland. The number of curates on the day the Irish Church Act was passed was 467. That number jumped up to no less than 918 on the day the Act came into operation. A sum of £55,000 a year was paid to these curates, many of whom were without a University degree and without any sign of being properly qualified from a theological point of view. I think it is generally admitted that as a matter of fact there were real scandals in connection with the curates and the Irish Church Act. That is a reason why we have not included curates amongst those who are to be compensated under this Bill. But, of course, if noble Lords feel strongly on this matter they will be able, as the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, no doubt realises now, to make any alterations they desire in this Bill in spite of any provisions there may be in the Parliament Act.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I have said a good deal about what the Bill does in general terms. There are some points as to which I know noble Lords attach still more importance, and that is with regard to things which the Bill does not do. This Bill in no way touches the essentials of the Church of England in Wales. It deals with the property and with the externals of that church chiefly and mainly, and any churchman who went into a church after the Bill came into operation would find the same books being used and the same clergy using the same services. Everything for which we value the Church will be left within the complete control of the members of the Church herself. The ritual, the doctrine of the Church, her orders and her sacraments are not only left untouched in this Bill but they will remain safe for the future. That is to many noble Lords opposite a matter of a great deal more importance than the endowments of the Church. It is chiefly the endowments of the Church which are affected by this Bill. Your Lordships know as a matter of common notoriety that in England and also in Wales it is very often where there are fewest endowments and those endowments of the poorest that the best work has been done. It is within the common knowledge, I imagine, of every one of your Lordships that very often it is in the very poorest parishes with the smallest modicum of endowment that the churches are most full and the most successful Church work is being carried on to-day.
Now, my Lords, I turn to say something on the question on which some noble Lords feel strongly—that is, the severance of the Welsh dioceses from the Convocation of Canterbury, and the institution of a new Synod to deal with the affairs of the Church in Wales. We have left, and purposely left, these things to be decided by the members of the Church herself. We have not tried in any way to settle or prejudge vexed questions such as the definition of who is or who is not a layman, or whether women should be admitted into a share of the government of the Church. We believe that in leaving those questions for the Church to settle as she thinks best we have done that which is most agreeable to the Church. I do not know why it should be said that we ought not to separate the dioceses of Wales from the Convocation of Canterbury. It is necessary when you 1029 disestablish a Church and put it on a voluntary basis to separate it from that portion of the Church which remains established in this country. For myself I do not see and I cannot imagine anything specially sacrosanct in the association of the dioceses of Wales with the Province of Canterbury. It was, comparatively speaking, a point of no importance whether these dioceses should have belonged to the Province of York or to the Province of Canterbury. Normally, the dioceses of Wales would have belonged to the Province of York, for they were part of the old northern Roman Province which to-day makes up the Province of York. It was only because of the way in which the Archbishop of Canterbury helped politically to conquer the people of Wales that these dioceses were added to the Province of Canterbury; and so we separate these four dioceses from Convocation. I do not know anything that would cause more regret to those Prelates and laymen who worked so hard for the revival of Convocation during the last century than if they could come to life to-day and see how little their lively anticipations have been fulfilled. They hoped great things from Convocation which have not been accomplished. I think most Church people are agreed that there is room for the reform of Convocation.
I appeal to anybody in this House who has any experience of the work of the Church of England in the Dominions and self-governing Colonies as to whether they do not know that it has always been looked upon as a sign of vitality when a new province has been formed. I remember in Australia that whenever you cut off from a province a number of dioceses and were able to constitute those as a new province of their own it was looked upon as a triumph, because they knew that it was not only a sign of energy but also because they knew that those dioceses would be better looked after than they had been in the past. That, I believe, will be the result in the case of the dioceses of Wales. Everything that we could do, granted the fact of Disestablishment, to make things easier for the Church of England in Wales in the future has been done by the Government in this Bill, and we give them the great advantage of freedom to legislate and to promote reform. It is common knowledge that There is urgent need for reform, and that many people have tried to reform some of the 1030 abuses which exist in the Church of England to-day. From two different standpoints attempts have been made to get Church Discipline Bills through the House of Commons. Neither of them succeeded. The noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, has tried for some years to get a measure through the House of Commons giving the Church of England freedom to create more bishoprics when she wants to do it. That has been as impossible as the attempt to deal with the question of Church discipline. The need for Church reform has been long felt. A league has been in existence for a good many years with almost a motto that the best method of Church defence is Church reform, but I do not know that it has yet managed to carry out a single one of the reforms which formed part of its programme when it started eighteen years ago. I do not believe that Church reform is possible until you have a measure of Church disestablishment.
I referred just now to a speech made by the noble Earl on the Cross Benches, Earl Grey, in the House of Commons in the year 1886. I am anxious to draw the attention of this House to what happened on that occasion. A Motion had been made to this effect—That the Church of England in Wales has failed to fulfil its professed object as a means of promoting the religious interests of the Welsh people, and ministers to only a small minority of the population.To that the noble Earl agreed; but he moved to add after those words the following—This House is of opinion that the time has arrived for introducing, without delay, into the Church organisation such reforms as will enable it to adapt itself more efficiently to the religious needs and wishes of the Welsh people.He spoke of the existing evils as being so scandalous and indefensible that unless reforms were speedily initiated and passed through the House it would be almost impossible for any power to prevent for even a short period the Disestablishment of the Church of England in Wales. My Lords, I looked at the Division Lists to see who supported this desire for the immediate reform of the Church in Wales, and to my pleasure I find that the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, then Lord Cranbourne, who was in the House of Commons in 1886, and the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, also, voted in support of the Motion of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches. In 1886 those noble lords were of opinion that the 1031 time had arrived for introducing without delay reforms into the Church of England in Wales; but from that day to this not one of those reforms has been introduced, and yet those noble Lords had plenty of opportunity while they were in power of doing something of the kind.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I repeat my opinion that it is really impossible to expect that any of these reforms are likely to be carried out until they are accompanied by some measure of Church Disestablishment. Your Lordships will see that this Bill really places the Church of England in Wales upon a voluntary basis. We do not understand, when we see the results of the voluntary system in other countries, why it is that the members, or some members, of the Church are so much afraid of what the results will be. Let them take courage and look abroad and see how in other parts of the world the voluntary system has been in religious matters a success, whether in the United States of America, or in our self-governing Dominions, or in our great Imperial territories like India, or in the foreign mission field of the Church of England. In all those places great things have been done on a voluntary basis. If there were any sign of decline in the spiritual energy of the Church one might, perhaps, sympathise with the fears of the members of the Church of England, but when we look round and see how vigorous the Church is to-day, when we see that the voluntary system has in no country failed, we are unable to understand why it is that they are so afraid of trying it to-day. Experience shows that with freedom comes fresh life. We know quite well that this Bill has very little chance of passing your Lordships' House when we divide on Thursday next, but none the less I commend it to you because in so far as it formally disestablishes the Church it recognises the facts of the case and registers the wishes of the people of Wales; and while it does effect a partial disendowment of the Church it sets up a free Church in a free State, a Church which will be free to give up the barren strife for privilege and which will be free to devote all its energies to the spiritual welfare of the people of Wales.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Earl Beauchamp.)1032
§ *LORD KENYON rose to move the rejection of the Bill. The noble Lord said: My Lords, nobody is more conscious than I am myself of my incapacity to present the Motion which I have ventured to put on the Paper. But, my Lords, I have lived all my life in Wales, and therefore I think I may claim to speak with some authority for the Church laymen of Wales. I have mixed with all classes in Wales and taken some share in the social, political, and educational life of Wales, and that is my only qualification for standing before you at this moment. I will venture to give your Lordships some reasons why I think you should reject this Bill, and perhaps in the course of my remarks I may be able to meet some of the arguments which the noble Earl has just adduced. But if I fail to meet others it is because I am really attempting to deal with what I know from my own experience more particularly in the diocese in which I live.
§ I venture to say that this Bill should be rejected because it is unwise, because it is unwanted, and because it is unjust. I have been frequently asked by Nonconformist friends of mine, "Why do you not compromise? Why, instead of rejecting the Bill, do not you go into Committee and try and amend it?" My Lords, we feel that on matters of principle—and this surely is a matter of principle if ever there was one—you cannot compromise. It is either right or it is wrong. If it is right, I then it will no doubt in time be passed; but if it is wrong we must do our very best to reject it. I venture to say it is nearly the unanimous opinion of Welsh Church laymen that this Bill should be rejected, and I am strengthened in that opinion by the number of Petitions that have been sent to the other House in favour of the rejection of the Bill. From England there were no less than 8,497 Petitions with nearly 1,900,000 signatures, and from Wales alone there were 556,000 signatures. Petitions are the only way in which the people can address either this House or the other House directly and express their opinions. One often hears contempt thrown upon Petitions, but as a matter of fact it is the only legitimate way in which they can express their opinions.
I Say this is an unwise Bill. It is not so much a question of whether Disestablishment is an injury to the Church. It is a question I think equally, or more so, of
whether it is an injury to the State, and we hold that although this is at present an attack upon the Welsh Church it is an attack really upon the Church as a whole. You cannot get away from it. The Irish Church was the first to suffer. Now you are attacking the Welsh branch. Very soon, my Lords, will come the turn of the English Church. I am supported in that by various members of the Opposition who ought to know. Mr. Justice Walton, when he was member of Leeds, said in the House of Commons on March:21, 1895, that—
He would not object to see the principle (of Disestablishment) applied still further by instalments, and having won the cause of Disestablishment for the four Dioceses of Wales, one would next be quite reconciled to the proposal to apply the same principle to the dioceses of the Northern Province of England. If the principle be a sound one, and if the principle be capable of graduated application, one failed to see any difficulty in the application he had indicated.
Then the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, speaking at Alton on January 20 last year, said—
He should not be afraid of saying that the Disestablishment of the Church in Waifs was only the first step towards the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church of England.
Dr. Clifford, speaking at a meeting of the Liberation Society, said in May last—
If the Church in Wales was disendowed, they would create another argument for disendowing the Anglican Church. He was not content with Disestablishment in Wales and Scotland.
It is a Radical argument that there is no freedom in the Established Church. I deny that in toto. The Welsh Church to-day is as free a Church as any Church cart possibly be.
Now, my Lords, may I say one or two words upon what we consider to be the real meaning of Establishment. I think it is very clearly expressed in a letter which appeared in The Times the other day by a very well known man, a friend of mine, Mr. Stanley Weyman. He wrote—
It seemed good for them (our forefathers) that in every parish there should be a minister of religion and that to his ministrations every parishioner should have a right, without payment. That as far as it touches us in the country is the practical meaning of Establishment and Endowment.
That is the real meaning of Establishment. But there are other ways in which Establishment is essential. Some of your Lordships who were in Wales in the summer of 1911 will remember a very important function typical of the union of Church and State—I mean the Investiture of the Prince of
Wales. That was a State function, and the religious service in connection with it was drawn up by His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury on the instructions of the Committee who were authorised by the State to arrange this function. It is true that in order that there should be perfect concord and to show that there was a brotherly spirit in the Church of England, the Nonconformist bodies were asked to co-operate and they did co-operate. I suggest that that is a typical instance of the connection between Church and Establishment, and I also suggest that if you disestablish the Church the religious part of such a function as that could not take place again. You would have no authority who would have the direction of that service. Mr. Lloyd George looks upon it in a different way. In the debate on the First Beading in another place he referred to the order of service for the Investiture as being settled by the Archbishop of Canterbury and a leading Nonconformist minister, and he went on—
Suppose you had disestablished the Church ten years ago, there would not have been the slightest difference in that gathering…and the only effect that Establishment can have is in restricting your choice of those who minister on those great State occasions.
Can a greater confusion of ideas be imagined? The choice and settlement of a religious service and the ministers who shall conduct it mean religious Establishment—that is, recognition of religion by the State.
There is another aspect of Establishment, and that is, I think, one that is valued more outside this House than perhaps your Lordships think. I refer to the fact that you have prayers in this House before you assemble to do your business. It may not be a large thing, but it does mean a great deal to some people that the blessing of God is asked upon the acts of Parliament. By the time that you have disestablished the Welsh Church, the Northern Diocese, and the rest of the English Church, those prayers in Parliament must cease. Another question to which the noble Earl alluded was the question of dismemberment. We think it an outrageous thing that you should, so to speak, kick us out of Convocation, a Convocation which I believe existed before this Parliament. If the Welsh Church has any right at all, it has the right to be the most ancient portion of the Church of England; and we have certainly by degrees come under Canterbury
in a voluntary spirit and Canterbury has been our Province since at any rate the twelfth century. We therefore think it a very harsh and cruel thing that we should be turned out of Convocation. Mr. Bradley, who is a Nonconformist minister, wrote this in his book, "Nonconformists and the Welsh Church Bill"—
To sever this Church in twain by legislation against its own desires and aspirations, against its prayers and pleadings, without, it seems, care or concern for its future, will stand out as a legislative crime against the very life of that Church. If Disestablishment essentially involves that, then Disestablishment from every point of view, religious and spiritual, is without defence.
I have said that the Bill is unwise, and I think for these reasons that it is unwise.
Next I say the Bill is unwanted. The noble Earl dealt with the number of representatives in the House of Commons from Wales who are pledged to this Bill. It is a curious thing that at the last General Election there were in Wales twenty-one of these supporters of the Government who issued election addresses but only eight of them mentioned Disestablishment, while two others made vague references to "Religious equality." I believe that an election address is supposed to be the charter of the candidate. You can pin him to his election address. Sometimes in his speeches be may be ill-reported, but he cannot get behind his election address; and you would think, in the case of a question which was bound to come up in this Parliament, a question that was supposed to be vital in Wales, that certainly more than eight out of those twenty-one Members would have alluded to it. Then, further, I find that there are Liberals and Nonconformists who do not think that the Welsh Members represent them. There is Mr. Henry Radcliffe, for example, who, writing to the Western Mail on January 21 last, said—
As Welsh Nonconformist laymen, upon whom great financial responsibilities are cast for the maintenance of religion, we feel that we are very inadequately represented by the Welsh Members.
He also said on another occasion—
United Nonconformist support is said to be behind this Bill. Let me say quite frankly that the Nonconformists of Wales have never been made acquainted with the drastic way in which this Bill will deal with religion. I will go further, and declare my confidence that if a referendum were made to the religious people of Wales as to whether it was their will that a sum of £173,000 per annum—that is the latest calculation of the monetary effects of the Bill—should be transferred from religious to worldly purposes, 90 per cent. would vote against it.
Mr. Henry Radcliffe is a very prominent man in Cardiff. I am not quoting any casual person.
§ The other day we had a by-election, to which I did not hear the noble Earl allude, in Flintshire. We determined as a Church party to fight that election on this Church Bill. I must say that the Radical Party endeavoured as far as they could to elude that issue. They first of all introduced the question of Food Taxes, until Mr. Bonar Law's letter made that useless. They also trailed the Trade Unions Bill, but that did not seem to catch; and finally we really pinned them to this Bill. What was the result? In a very small electorate there had been a majority of 14 per cent. in favour of the Radical candidate. We reduced that to 5 per cent. That was the only occasion on which we have been able to test the electorate on this particular question. The Bill was before them, and instead of having a majority of 509 it dropped to 211, and they were saved as far as we can tell by their Irish friends.
§ The noble Earl did not seem to think that the Church in Wales is the Church of the majority of the people. I dare say it is not, but it is the Church of a very large minority; and, what is more, it is a growing Church. As I said when I began I wish to speak of things that I know, and therefore if you will allow me, instead of dealing with the four dioceses of Wales, I will deal with the growth of the Church in the St. Asaph diocese, in which I live. The difference in the last eighty years, from 1831 to 1911, in St. Asaph diocese is shown by the following figures: The Sunday services have increased from 292 to 686, the parsonages have increased from 107 to 193, and the voluntary offerings in the diocese between 1840 and 1910 have amounted to over £2,000,000. In addition there have been annual voluntary contributions for Church expenses and other purposes, £16,489; for missions, £6,454; for poor and hospitals, £2,084. In the twenty-four years of the present Bishop of St. Asaph's episcopate he has confirmed over 55,000 candidates. Last Easter day there were present at Holy Communion in the diocese 31,069 communicants, as compared with the year 1890 when the number of communicants was 14,214. The diocese of St. Asaph stood last year seventh on the list of the 1037 thirty-seven dioceses of the Church of England in respect of the proportion of Easter communicants to population, and eight in the proportion of Sunday school scholars to population. That is in a diocese where Nonconformists are supposed to be in a majority.
§ There are one or two instances I should like to point out of the strong Church growth in this diocese. For instance, in the town of Wrexham, which raised some comment just now, within five years a church house and three churches have been erected at a cost of £24,000, and the backbone of this building fund consisted of 600 working people who agreed to give 1s. per month for five years, several who could not afford 1s. joining with others and giving 6d. each. During 1911 £3,000 was raised for Church work, apart altogether from the building scheme. Over 2,000 children were taught in the Sunday schools. Then with regard to Colwyn Bay, the money raised voluntarily and spent on churches, church room, vicarage, and sites since 1894 amounted to £42,984. The money raised last year for other objects amounted to over £2,000. The population of Colwyn Bay at the last census was only 7,700. The Faster communicants have gone up from 338 in 1893 to 1,505. On the other hand, the Nonconformists in Wales have been reducing. The returns recently issued show that the Baptists lave had a decline of 519 in Church membership, the Welsh Wesleyan Methodists a decline of 877, the Calvinistic Methodists a decline of 215, and the only case where any increase has taken place is in that of the Congregationalists, who show an increase of 121. The noble Earl who gave figures just now chose periods when there were practically no Nonconformists in Wales at all. In 1901 the Nonconformists only numbered 25 per cent. of the whole population. The growth of Nonconformity has only been in the last 100 years, and it has reached its zenith and in fact is on the decline. On the other hand the Church is continually increasing in membership, and yet you wish to disestablish and disendow it.
§ Now I come to the unjust part of this Bill—the question of Disendowment. I take the noble Earl's figure of £134, 000, and of course I must accept what he says. But I cannot agree that the Church only loses £51,000 a year. This question of 1038 disendowment is really a layman's question. I think you will agree that it is not well that the clergy should be looked upon as fighting, if I may say so, for the loaves and fishes. It is for the laymen, if possible, to defend these things, so that although the labourer is worthy of his hire that shall not be so much a question with him as the question of his right to do the services. I do not think I need go into the question of title. The Church undoubtedly has a strong title to these ancient endowments. In the Book of Llandaff, which was written somewhere about 1140, there are many instances of ancient endowments. It contains an account of the dioceses from the earliest times with the lives of the Bishops, very full in the case of the first three (Dubricius, Teilo, and Oudoceus). Included are particulars of the grants giving the names of the donors, the terms of the donation, and the boundaries of the estates in interesting detail. There are many cases given, and I should weary you if I went into them in detail. But there is one more modern one of which I should like to give you an instance. In 1590, Gabriel Goodman, Dean of Westminster, bought back from two laymen the whole of the tithe and glebe of Ruthin, Denbighshire, for £12,000. He then by deed divided the income among three objects. A first charge was to be the payment of the parish clergyman, "to be a priest or mynister according to the laws and orders of the Church of England"; a second charge, the maintenance of the poor in the almshouses founded by him; and a third charge, the support of Ruthin Grammar School. It is now proposed, while leaving the two latter, to divert to other and non-religious purposes every penny given to carry out Dean Goodman's chief desire—the provision of a Church of England clergyman in Ruthin. We have been told that these endowments are so mixed up with education and the care of the poor that it is impossible to separate them. There is a concrete case of a man splitting his endowment into three portions.
§ Now to come to the St. Asaph diocese. Of course, we will lose the whole of the upkeep of the Cathedral when the present life interests are disposed of. You will have this great edifice with not a penny piece to keep it up unless the laity can raise it. There are 209 incumbents in St. Asaph and eighty-nine assistant clergy. 1039 Their income is £55,000 a year, or an average of £266. I do not think that can be considered an excessive income. The Bill deprives this diocese of all its endowments except 4s. 7d. in the pound. You may juggle as much as you like with the commutation figures but you cannot get rid of this great fact, that you are taking away £158,000 a year from the Church. To show that the Church in St. Asaph is not over-endowed, we have to raise every year £2,000 for the fund for the poor clergy. There are many parishes where the assistant clergy only get £100 a year and in many others only £200, and these are helped from the Clergy Fund.
§ The noble Earl alluded to the rural deanery of Bangor. I live in that rural deanery, and it also occurred to me to get out some figures with regard to it. I think the whole question of the border parishes is a very hard one. They are treated especially harshly. There are ten parishes in the rural deanery of Bangor with a population in 1911 of 6,719. The Easter communicants in 1890 were 454, and in 1912 they were more than double—namely, 987—and yet the population had hardly increased at all. The income before disendowment is £2,769; after disendowment it will be £299. The noble Earl's figures are rather different, but I think they work out very much the same in the total. The result is that we have for ten churches in ten parishes under £300 a year to maintain them. There is only one Nonconformist minister resident in that district. How is it proposed to marry, bury, and baptise the population in those ten parishes? Somehow or other, I suppose, we must raise these incomes, which means, if you take Mr. McKenna's commutation figures, that we will have to raise £1,434 in this one rural deanery which is entirely a fainting district and in which there are a few rich people and no manufacturers. It is a very stagnant population; they do not increase, and yet they do not diminish. That is the case all down the border. I ought to say that the percentage of communicants to the population amounts to as much as 14 per cent., which is nearly three times as great as the average over the whole of England.
§ There is another case that I think is deserving of mention, that is the case of a small parish called Whitewell. Twenty 1040 years ago that parish was part of Malpas parish in Cheshire. Malpas was a peculiar parish, and had two rectors. It was thought desirable to split the rectory and the emoluments thereof, and part was transferred to Whitewell, which is in Wales. The whole of that income of £290, which was an endowment prior to 1662, will be entirely swept away. I do not know that I need trouble your Lordships with any more of these instances of border parishes. I have a great many here, but they are all very much the same except that the communicants vary from 9 to 10 and 11 per cent. of the population. There are even harder cases than the ones to which I have referred. I might mention the case of Gresford, which has a population of 2,352. The communicants in 1890 were 184; and in 1912, 337, or a percentage of the population of 14.3. The income before was £619, and that all goes except £14.
§ As to the question of the curates, I was interested to hear Lord Beauchamp's reason for the curates not getting any compensation under this Bill. Because of what happened in the case of Ireland he wishes to deprive 560 curates resident in Wales at the present moment of any compensation under this Bill. Was there ever a more unreasonable proposition? These men have spent money and time in educating themselves to be able to serve their Church and they have every right to be compensated, yet it is alleged, because an undue number of curates were made in Ireland in order to take advantage of that Act, that these Welsh curates are not to be compensated. I think it is a monstrous proposal. I need not go into all these figures. There are 480 curates out of the 560 now working in Wales who at present have a stipend of £57,000. The amount that is paid to them from voluntary contributions in addition is £40,000 a year.
§ I have asked, Who will provide for the births, marriages, and deaths? I submit that Nonconformity is not sufficient for this purpose. I was very much struck, as I dare say some at your Lordships were, by a speech made by Mr. Lloyd George in the House of Commons the other day in which he alluded to the power of preaching. It was an extremely loose statement that he made. He said that there was hardly a good preacher in the Church of England within the last hundred 1041 years—that he only knew of one, I think his words were. I am quite sure that that is a fact which could easily be controverted, although it is a little difficult, possibly, to say who is a good preacher and Who is not. But my point is this, that preaching is perhaps the least essential of the qualifications of a parish clergyman. I am sure that in choosing, as one has often had to do, an incumbent for a living, one thinks of many other things first before one thinks whether the man is a good preacher, and it illustrates the whole difference between the conception of the Nonconformist pastorate and the Church of England pastorate. Our idea is to have a clergyman to whom every parishioner can go irrespective of what his sect may be to have his wants ministered to. That is our test; but apparently the idea of Nonconformity is that he should be their preacher. I leave that in your Lordships' hands. Another point is this, that the Nonconformists in Wales are split up into several bodies. The Calvinistic Methodists are very strong in North Wales, and the Baptists in South Wales, but they have many points of difference among them, and except that they join together in attacking the Church of England they are quite as severely divided among themselves as they are from the Church of England. The Church of England is everywhere; but Nonconformity only somewhere. A return made in 1912 from the clergy of the St. Asaph diocese shows that out of 208 parishes there are seventy-nine in which there is no resident Nonconformist minister at all.
Now, my Lords, I should like to add an extract or two from the Welsh Church Report on "Pastoral care." The first is from page 17—
Pastoral care is, in the circumstances of our time, of growing importance in view of a tendency apparent on the part of a considerable portion of the population in industrial districts and large towns to neglect regular attendance at public worship.
That is the opinion of the Welsh Church Commissioners. Then on page 28—
The pastoral system and pastoral visitations are always and everywhere characteristic of the work of the Church of England. With inconsiderable exceptions of parishes held in plurality, there is a resident minister in every ecclesiastical parish, and great emphasis is laid on the thoroughness of pastoral work and visitation. The evidence shows that they (the Church of England clergy) are always prepared to and often do exercise their pastoral ditties over person who are not adherents of the Church of England
Cui bone? Why disestablish a Church which is doing this good and which is found to be doing this good by the Commission that was called together to inquire into it? Then Mr. Bradley says in his work, "The Case against Welsh Disestablishment," at page 59—
The main question is: Is the Church in Wales in such a state religiously and morally, relative to public usefulness, to make it necessary or desirable for any body of citizens to demand, in the public interests and for the public protection, the proposed drastic provisions for its impoverishment.
Then Mr. Edgar Jones, M.P., at a meeting of the Welsh Baptist Union in September, 1911, said—
No one denied that the Church of England on the whole to-day was making fair use of the money it had. They must not prejudice themselves and blind themselves to obvious truths.
And the Rev. Morgan Gibbon, referring to what he calls the "two Churches in Wales" —the Nonconformist and the Anglican Church—says:
Here are two Churches—the Anglican, with its magnificent organisation, its wealth, learning, piety, eloquence, and zeal. Truly a noble Church…
Again I say, Cui bono?
§ Another point I wish to deal with, but which I do with some diffidence, is the ultimate destination of these funds. As some of your Lordships may be aware, I am Deputy Chancellor of the University of Wales, also Chairman of its Executive Committee, President of the North Wales College at Bangor, and Chairman of the Council. In those capacities I have to act with strict impartiality, as any of your Lordships would. I do not wish it to be thought for one moment that I desire to make any Party question or take any Party advantage out of the question of the particular destination of these funds. But I do wish to make a few remarks with regard to this point, and I hope my Nonconformist friends will also think of the point too, as to the effect of the receipt of this £27,000 a year. It is proposed under the Act to set aside the capitular grants to the University of Wales. I believe the proportion is to be one-fourth for each of the constituent colleges, one-eighth for the library, and, I take it, although it is net stated, one-eighth to the University, otherwise there will be one-eighth in suspense that nobody has to do with. The Univer- 1043 sity of Wales will first have the odium of distributing this money. Secondly, it will alienate all its Church friends. I think that is inevitable. In the past we have raised considerable sums of money to build these University schools and considerable sums have been given by Churchmen and Nonconformists with strict impartiality because they thought they were doing it for the good of the people. Whether or not our Church friends will look upon this grant as a wrong use of the money, they will at any rate be occupied for many years themselves in building up their own Church funds, and we shall not be able to look to those Church people for any money until they have fulfilled that task which will be thrust upon them. I say this because we require a great deal more money in Wales yet. We require at least £17,000 a year in order to establish some very pressing professorships that are wanted, and we wish to raise the professors' salaries to £500 a year. In addition to that, there are a great many more permanent buildings wanted. In Cardiff alone they want to spend £225,000, and in Bangor and Aberystwith they require capital sums of £80,000 apiece. The Treasury has come to our aid in the past with grants of about £50,000, but the whole of the rest that has been raised—and no less a sum quite recently than £120,000 was raised in Bangor—has been raised by voluntary effort, and I very much fear that our Church friends may he unable, even if they are willing, to come to our rescue.
§ Then there is another point. These colleges and the University receive grants from the Treasury. Some years ago those grants were found to be inadequate, and we went to the Treasury and asked for more on the ground that we had no endowments, and after a great deal of discussion we got what I may call preferential treatment. Now, if we are going to receive this £27,000, all our excuse for preferential treatment goes. I do not say that this Government will discontinue that treatment, but I do not know what any other Government may do. We may not always have a Chancellor of the Exchequer who is a Welshman, and I think it is a question which we shall have to consider very earnestly in Wales as to whether we shall really gain any benefit at all by the receipt of this sum of money. What will it come 1044 to then? If the preferential treatment goes and the Treasury take away a portion of our grant, it will simply mean relief to the taxpayers and ratepayers of this country. I submit, too, that in the many directions to which the county councils are allowed to apply this money, there is not a single thing which you cannot use rate aid for at the present moment. You are taking away funds from institutions that you affirm should never receive State aid, and you are applying them to institutions which are already in receipt of State aid and must expect more, and therefore I say you are aiding both the ratepayer and the taxpayer.
Mr. Bathurst had an Amendment on the Paper in the House of Commons that these grants, after all, should go to religious purposes. It is felt on many hands I know, and many earnest Nonconformists have said the same to me, that it is wrong that these endowments which were give for religious purposes should be taken for secular uses; and in order to meet that point Mr. Bathurst proposed an Amendment that these funds should go to the religious bodies in Wales. That was defeated. It was said they would not have it. But Mr. Henry Radcliffe says, in the Western Mail on the 21st of last month—
To a Welsh layman like myself, this emphatic refusal of a generous and well-intended offer came as a great surprise. It surely is reasonable to think that the proper people—indeed, the only people—to decide that question are the Nonconformist bodies themselves at representative conferences duly convened for the purpose. How can any of these estimable gentlemen who 'form the Welsh Parliamentary Party say that the Welsh Nonconformists would be disinclined to Utilise any of the funds without first giving them the opportunity of considering and expressing their judgment in a collective way?
The noble Earl said that the voluntary movement would be of great advantage to us, and that the voluntary movement was always a success. I am afraid I must challenge that statement, because we find that the voluntary movement even in the Nonconformist Church of Wales is not altogether a success at the present moment. Evidence before the Commission showed that in a poor country like Wales, and especially in rural parishes, endowments are necessary for the proper maintenance of the Christian ministry. For years every Nonconformist body in Wales has been deploring the inadequacy of the salaries paid to its ministers; and almost at the
moment of the introduction of this Bill for disendowing the Church the three chief Nonconformist Denominations in Wales—the Calvinistic Methodists, the Congregationalists, and the Baptists—were themselves advertising the failure of the voluntary system by making special official efforts to raise endowments for the maintenance of their ministry, a purpose which is the main one for which the Church endowments exist.
At the Spring meeting, in 1911, of the Welsh Congregational Churches at Aberaman, reported in the Christian World, Mr. Thomas, of Liverpool, read several letters from ministers who had been labouring in their pastorates for 30, 35, and 40 years upon 15s. a week, others on 13s. and even 10s. a week. These cases, of course, represent voluntaryism at its lowest capacity, and record its worst achievements, which amount to a failure. At Portmadoc, at a meeting of the South Carnarvonshire Welsh Congregational Union, Mr. Thomas, advocating the raising of £50,000 in order to ensure a minimum salary of £80 per annum, said there was now a good number of pastors in Wales whose wage was under 20s. a week. The Manchester Guardian, which is not a Conservative paper, commenting on that said—
It is difficult to ignore a certain political application which these discussions suggest, and those who are at present engaged in a defence of religious endowments in Wales are pretty sure to see how the proposals serve their case.
I suggest, if it is necessary to make these attempts to raise endowments, that it shows that the voluntary system is failing.
Finally, my Lords, I should like to make an appeal for unity. I think it is obvious at the present moment that the Church is opening her hands and broadening her mind. It is equally obvious that there has been a very different state of feeling evinced all over the Principality as between the Church and Nonconformity. We meet frequently on common ground. If you disestablish and disendow the Church you will create a most hostile spirit which it will be very difficult to assuage. If, on the other hand, you have a little patience I think that before many years have passed you will see a union between the Church and these
divided bodies. Look at what is taking place in Scotland at the present moment. It is not so long ago that we heard in Scotland and from Scottish Members a great desire for Disestablishment. I do not think we hear anything of that at all now. On the other hand, frequently we hear a desire for unity. Dr. Whitelaw, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Free Church, advocated a re-union of the Presbyterian Churches in a letter to The Times in October last. That is very recent history, and I do not see why we should not imagine that the same thing can happen in Wales. I had a letter put in my hand a short time ago from a man who is so well thought of in his own district as to have been made Mayor of his town. He says—
I would like to submit to you the possibility, to me the great probability, in the course of a few years after Disestablishment—as there is but little in polity and theological belief that divides the Presbyterian Church of Wales from the Anglican Church in Wales—of a great reunion taking place. This prospect fills my heart with delight, because then we shall have a Church in name and in fact fully representative, and a greater instrument for the spiritual regeneration of the Welsh nation than any that we have heard of or have seen.
I think those are noble words, although I disagree with his premiss that it is more likely to take place after Disestablishment. I think it is more likely to take place if you leave things as they are, but I sincerely hope that his words may prove to be justified.
§ My Lords, we have to deal with a rise of materialism and a growth of Agnostic forces which are more dangerous to the State than any little differences which may exist between Churchmen and Nonconformists, and if you cripple the Church by reducing its funds—and the funds are none too much in the diocese I have attempted to deal with—you must diminish its power. The two things must follow. I ask your Lordships to bear in mind the enormous and dangerous forces that are arrayed against religion, and I venture, as my last appeal, to ask you to reject this Bill on that ground alone if on no other.
To leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day three months").—(Lord Kenyon.)
THE LORD BISHOP OF ST. ASAPH
My Lords, I ask for the indulgence of your Lordships for a brief space. I feel that it would be a dereliction of duty on my part if I were to allow a measure fraught with such far-reaching consequences to the Church and people in the principality of Wales to pass by without comment. The noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of this Bill gave us his views on privilege, on the voluntary system, and on the Church in the Colonies. The wisdom and the information which the noble Earl doubtless harvested during his own Colonial experience has led him to conclusions with regard to an Established Church which are certainly at variance with those expressed to me by every Colonial Bishop I have met. I am not going to deal with these generalities in noble Earl's speech, but I do feel that some reference is necessary to those parts of it which dealt particularly with Wales and that part of Wales with which I am familiar.
I was rather amused at the tone of great indignation in which the noble Earl alluded to the speech made by the Bishop of London at Wrexham. I happened to be present on that occasion, and there was not an intelligent person who attended that meeting who did not know that the Bishop of London was talking of what would happen after the next vacancy occurred in the vicarage of Wrexham. The noble Earl pointed out the "lamentable blunder" which the Bishop of London had fallen into with regard to the endowments left to the parish of Wrexham. I know something about that matter, as Wrexham is in my diocese, and I can tell your Lordships that the amount of endowment left to the vicar of the parish church of Wrexham is no more and no less than the sum £13 a year. The modern endowment that the noble Earl was referring to was an endowment to a new church called St. Mark's. That modern endowment is solely for the minister in charge of St. Mark's. The Bishop was strictly accurate, and the noble Earl blundered. Then the noble Earl gave us various figures with regard to the membership of the Church in Wales. He gave us a census for the year 1603. I really do know something about this census also. This census, according to the noble Earl, showed that there were 212,000 communicants in that year. Would it be 1048 believed that the whole population of Wales was not equal to that number at the time. The noble Earl took his figures from Principal Rees, of Bangor. Before doing that, it would have been wise if he had looked at the evidence given by Principal Rees before the Welsh Church Commission. Your Lordships are aware that the Commission was presided over by a great Judge who was experienced in taking evidence, and he cross-examined Principal Rees, who was the statistical representative of the Nonconformists in Breconshire, and it was proved to demonstration that Mr. Rees had counted some of the ministers three times and some of the congregations twice in the figures which he put forward.
But, my Lords, with regard to all those figures of the noble Earl and the estimates he has given of the number of Churchmen in Wales, there is one straightforward and one perfectly conclusive answer to the whole thing, and that is this. We have asked again and again to have a religious census taken for Wales, and it does not lie with the members of a Government which has refused us that census to come and give these figures which rest upon no substantial basis whatever. Indeed, when I listened to the noble Earl I was reminded of an incident in the House of Commons which took place some twenty years ago. As you know, when these disestablishment proposals were brought forward at that time, Mr. Gladstone used to speak upon them, and, although his own Government was pledged to Disestablishment and Disendowment, the speeches which he made then were always most damaging to his own side. I remember on one great occasion Lord Randolph Churchill delivered a speech on Disestablishment and Disendowment, I think almost the last speech he made in the House of Commons. He had sought the advice of some Welsh Churchmen with regard to figures and facts, but I am afraid in his speech things got a little mixed, and when Mr. Gladstone rose to reply he said—The noble Lord knows nothing about Wales except what he has been taught by other people, and he has learnt his lesson very badly.I need not labour the illustration any further. Forty-three years have elapsed since this question was first brought before the House of Commons by Mr. Watkin Williams, afterwards Mr. Justice Watkin Williams, and, if I may venture upon one 1049 little bit of egotism, it was upon this particular subject that in my undergraduate days at Oxford I delivered that year the first speech in my life, and I have followed during all the intervening period this controversy with close attention and interest.
In discussing the measure now before your Lordships' House, I approach it from two points of view. I ask myself what, if passed, will be its influence upon the religion of Wales and upon the character of the people of Wales. As a Christian and as a citizen, I desire then to discuss it. What exactly does this Bill propose to do? The Church of England so far as it extends to and exists in Wales and in Monmouthshire shall cease to be established by law. The first point I wish to make clear is this. In order to understand what Disestablishment means, it is necessary to consider in what Establishment consists. Among its most salient incidents the following may be named—the headship of the Sovereign in his power of nominating Bishops; the part taken by Parliament in ecclesiastical legislation; the fact that certain of the Bishops sit in the House of Lords. Then I come to two other facts inherent in the structure of the Church of England which are of supreme importance because they touch the organic unity of the Church. I refer to the supremacy within his province of the Arch bishop of Canterbury to whom the Bishops owe canonical obedience and by whom they are consecrated, and to the representation of the four dioceses in Convocation, which is "the Church of England by representation." These bonds of union, no less than the three relations first specified, this Bill proposes expressly or by implication to abolish so far as Wales is concerned.
Now, if it were proposed to disestablish the Church of England as a whole it would be necessary to consider how far these relations are important to the life and well-being of the Church and how far they are valuable to the State as tokens of the association of the civil government with the religious life of the people. But the point I wish to pre-eminently emphasise is this. The separate treatment of Wales in these matters is of such tremendous import to Churchmen as to thrust aside the question of the good or evil of Disestablishment in the abstract. Though there is very much that is obscure 1050 in the provisions of the Bill, this much is clear—that the severance of the Welsh dioceses from the main body of the English Church is intended to be as complete as the law can make it, and nothing has been made more certain by the debates in another place than that the advocates of Disestablishment have no understanding of what that severance means to Churchmen in Wales. The precedent of the Irish Church Act of 1869, to which I shall refer later on in detail after what the noble Earl has said, has been largely followed in the drawing of this Bill and is to some extent relied on by ill-informed people as a justification of the present proposals.
It seems hardly possible that any one who has read the first few lines of the Preamble of the Irish Church Act can pretend to find any analogy in essentials between the cases of Ireland and Wales. That Act begins thus—Whereas it is expedient that the union created by Act of Parliament between the Churches of England and Ireland as by law established should be dissolved and that the Church of Ireland as an separated should cease to be established by law.In the case then of Ireland there was a statutory union between two Churches; there was, apart from Statute, some degree of union as between co-equals; but each Church had a distinct organisation. They were two Churches and not one, so the Establishment only, and not the existence of the Irish Church, was affected by the Act. For example, the answer of an Irish Churchman to the question, "To what Church do you belong?" would be the same to-day as it would have been before the Act of 1869. But there is no Church of Wales and it does not lie within the power of Parliament to create one which shall satisfy the needs of Churchmen.
Let this fact stand out in the strongest and most unmistakable terms. If this Bill becomes law the Welsh Churchman will find himself bereft of something which the munificence of a wealthy laity on which he is bidden to rely cannot replace—a communion sanctified and enriched to him by the tradition of long centuries. For his own lifetime he may be able to persuade himself that, in spite of all that Parliament could do, he keeps his part in the Church of his fathers; but his children will succeed to membership in a Church without history, without authority, lacking everything that most appeals to the sentiment of reverence 1051 which is the best nurse of a religious life. Clause 3, subsection (5), which expels the Welsh Clergy from Convocation, illustrates the impossibility of dealing with the civil aspect of the Establishment without affecting the spiritual concerns of the Church. It was no doubt looked upon by the framers of the Bill as a logical sequel to the general enactment contained in Clause 1; but in their desire to sever every vestige of civil connection between the State and the Church, the framers of this Bill seek to destroy a unity which derives neither its origin nor its sanction from any such connection. "Convocation," to use Bishop Stubb's phrase, "is a spiritual assembly," And it is the organic structure of the Church of England in its spiritual aspect that is assailed by this provision. Nothing in the Bill illustrates more forcibly how completely this dismemberment of the Church of England would, for the Church in Wales, sever every artery and vein through which the life of that Church now pulses. The amputated part might have in it the potentiality of independent life or it might not. Its fortunes would possibly interest the philosopher watching the development of that novel experiment—a State-created Church. But many will think that its best hope would lie in a passionate denial of the patent fact of severance and in the insistence on ties which, lying in the region of sentiment, might have escaped the knife of the legislator.
Now, my Lords, these are the provisions in the Bill which most profoundly touch me as a Churchman. Unfortunately, these are considerations which seem to have little or no weight with the promoters of the Bill. If it were their nationality of which the people were being forcibly stripped, perhaps one might rely in some measure on the sympathy of some of our opponents. But where it is only a matter of communion in the Church in which we have been christened, confirmed, and nurtured, the remonstrance of those about to be dispossessed falls upon deaf ears. I have dwelt at some length upon the disestablishing clauses of this Bill, involving as they do the dismemberment of the Church of England. Those clauses appeal less directly, perhaps, to the people at large than do the clauses involving the injustice of confiscating property, but to my mind the Disestablish went clauses, duly considered, have an importance which makes the Disendowment proposals seem almost insignificant by comparison.
1052 Before I pass to Disendowment, let me say a word upon the administrative clauses in this Bill. Part II provides for the constitution of two bodies—one for temporary purposes and the other permanent. The Commissioners, three in number—two salaried and one unpaid—are to exercise both administrative and judicial functions, carrying into effect the transfers of property directed by the Bill and having all the powers of a division of the High Court of Justice for determining the many and difficult questions of title and values which are bound to arise in the course of such transfers. It is of the highest importance that this extraordinary tribunal should be so constituted that the Church and all concerned might alike feel the same assurance of having trained skill and high impartiality brought to the decision of the questions at issue as is felt by ordinary litigants with regard to the King's Bench and Chancery Divisions of the High Court of Justice. An appeal would lie to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council from the decision of the Commissioners in certain specified matters which do not by any means cover the whole field of their judicial functions. I need not point out that the possibility of such a costly corrective increases the importance of securing a Court of First Instance whose judgments might command respect.
Then I come to the constitution of the second body—the representative body, as it is called. I am inclined to wonder whether so few words of statutory enactment have ever been pregnant with such tremendous possibilities. For the work put upon the Bishops, clergy, and laity of the Church in Wales is nothing less than to create a Church system out of chaos. They are given the remnants left of the Church's property and are asked to determine within limits scarcely indicated the trust on which that property shall be held. All matters of doctrine and of Church government are left to them. The existing order is swept away with all its obligations and all its safeguards. A new Church is to arise, not at the will of its members, but at the bidding of the Legislature. Politicians may not shrink from the responsibility of setting up an engine of such immense potential strength for good or evil, but Churchmen may well approach the handling of it with fear and trembling. The scheme of things is shattered, and we are bidden "remould it nearer to the heart's desire."
1053 Now, my Lords, I turn to Disendowment. The Disendowment proposals can be stated briefly. The Home Secretary on January 10 stated that the total endowments of the Church in Wales amounted to £260,000 a year, and that of that sum the Bill alienated from the Church £158,000 a year, leaving the Church with £102,000 a year. I would ask the House carefully to keep these two figures in mind, and in passing I would observe that the bulk of the £102,000 a year left to the Church represents simply permission to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and Queen Anne's Bounty to continue to the disestablished Church grants which they now make from purely English sources. To claim this as an act of generosity is indeed strange. I now come to what I regard as a matter of grave indictment. In this same speech the Home Secretary made this statement—The income of the disestablished Church from endowments or gifts will be £203,000 a year. The total endowments now are only £260,000 a year.He then went on to say that £60,000 a year was all that the disestablished Church would have to find.
THE LORD BISHOP OF ST. ASAPH
I am taking the speech of the Home Secretary in which the figure given was £60,000. During the passage of the Bill from the House of Commons to this House the £60,000 has been changed to £51,000. We shall get to nothing presently. It is obvious that if the Bill takes away, as the Home Secretary states, £158,000 a year, it cannot be true to say that Churchmen will only have to find £60,000 a year, or, as the noble Earl puts it, £51,000. Now, I ask your Lordships most carefully to note the process by which these marvellous figures were arrived at. The Home Secretary in this balance sheet included two items which he does not include in the income of the Church. These two items consist of an estimate of £70,000 a year derived from commutation and £31,000 a year derived from possible expectations from the Commissioners. One word here as to vested interests. The Government say to the clergy in Wales at the present time, "We are recognising, as of course we are bound to recognise by every legal and constitutional precedent in the country, your vested interest. As long as you live yon will 1054 have your little salary, whatever it is, undiminished." They tell the clergyman, "You will have £200 a year as long as you remain vicar of the parish." Then they turn round to the Church and say, "You commute this man's interest and give him the £80 a year you receive as interest on the lump sum paid down in commutation." Who is to find the other £120? Obviously it must be found from the Jump sum, which will be all gone in many cases before the annuitant dies.
Now to come back to Mr. McKenna's balance sheet. I am not going to discuss the fairness of including these two sums. What I want to point out to the House is this, if these two sums of £70,000 a year and £31,000 a year are to figure on one side of the balance sheet, they must in common honesty figure on the other side of the balance sheet. If the Bill takes away £158,000 a year from the Church, it is clear that it is not true to say or to imply that it is only taking away £60,000 a year or £51,000 a year. I ask myself what epithet an Official Receiver would apply to such a balance sheet if presented to him by a bankrupt, and, my Lords, I go further. I venture to say that it seems to me extraordinarily strange that the standard for financial accuracy should be placed higher for a bankrupt than for a Cabinet Minister. The date of this extraordinary balance sheet presented in another place by the Home Secretary was January 10. At that very moment, as Lord Kenyon has already said, a by-election was being contested in the Flint Boroughs in my own neighbourhood. The Unionist candidate confined his appeal to the electors simply and solely to the Church question; the Liberal candidate devoted his speeches and his address to everything except Disendowment. The result of that election was significant. There are 250 Irish votes in that small constituency and they were all given solid for the Liberal candidate. So far, then, as the Welsh inhabitants of that constituency are concerned, there was a majority against the Liberal candidate and against this Bill, and the situation was saved simply by the Irish vote.
But I now come to my point. Two members of the Government came down to the constituency just before the poll, and they assured the electors, on the authority of the Home Secretary, that the Bill only took £60,000 a year away from 1055 the Church. Without this statement even the Irish vote would not have secured the return of the Liberal candidate. A few days later Mr. McKenna's statement was amplified by one of his least scrupulous followers who protested against the generosity of this Bill in the following form—The endowments of the Church are £260,000 a year; four-fifths of this is to go to the Church and one-fifth to the Welsh nation to whom it all belongs.These words, I think, illustrate the grave responsibility which attaches to a Cabinet Minister who by suppression and suggestion supplied the material for this outrageous misrepresentation.
Others will deal more fully with the details of Disendowment, but there is one point to which I desire to call the attention of the House. The precedent for this Bill given by the Government is the Irish Church Act of 1869. Let me compare the two cases in reference to Disendowment. The position of the Church in Ireland at the time of its disestablishment was made clear by the Parliamentary census which showed that in 1861 the population of Ireland was 5,798,967 and that of that population the Roman Catholics numbered 4,505,265, and the members of the Established Church 693,357. It must be remembered that in Ireland there was only one Church and not several Nonconformist bodies sharply divided from each other. There were few, if any, converts. In Wales, on the other hand, Nonconformists are coming over to the Church every year, every month, every week. As I say, there was no such thing in Ireland. I think Mr. Lecky in his History of Rationalism said that it had been computed, taking the number of converts in Ireland, that it would take 4,000 years for the Irish to become Protestants.
The number of clergy compensated under the Irish Act was 2,380, and of that number 921 were curates. Mr. Gladstone, in his speech on March 1, 1869, estimated the annual income of the Irish Church as something between £700,000 and £800,000 a year. The Report of the Commissioners of Church Temporalities in Ireland shows how Disendowment was carried out by Mr. Gladstone. Everybody from the parish clerk to the Archbishop was compensated. The capital value of the endowments of the Irish Church amounted to 1056 something like £18,000,000. Of that sum £11,269,837 went back to those connected with the Church and some £7,000,000 was alienated for other purposes. Compare this with the Church in Wales. We know that the Nonconformists, according to their own Year-books, and they never understate their numbers, number only 42 per cent. of the population of Wales and Monmouthshire. The religious census, which we have asked for, would tell us to what denomination the other 58 per cent. belong. It is my belief, based upon some knowledge, that such a census would show that nearly half the population of Wales and Monmouthshire would return themselves as Churchmen. One thing is certain, the actual number of Churchmen to-day in Wales far exceeds the actual number of Churchmen in Ireland at the time of disestablishment. Now, I ask your Lordships to note that the Irish Church after disendowment was richer by £4,000,000 than the Church in Wales is before Disendowment. I think that throws some light upon the generosity which the noble Earl alluded to. The Home Secretary stated that the Irish Church, without commutation, would have been left with an income of £17,500 a year, and he triumphantly said—The Welsh Church, as the Bill was introduced, was not left with £17,500 a year but with £87,000 per year.It is one of the curiosities attendant upon the discussion of this measure in another place that the Home Secretary has thought it necessary to waste upon history his consummate powers of fiction.
With regard to commutation, I wish to point this out—the Irish Church was a very wealthy Church; although claiming many fewer adherents than the Church in Wales its clergy numbered 800 more than the clergy in Wales to-day. They were therefore able to dispense with the services of a large number of these clergy, and by Mr. Gladstone's scheme of commutation, with its bonus of 12 per cent., the Church in Ireland derived some advantage from that scheme. As to commutation, I may remind you in passing that Mr. Disraeli in 1869 described commutation as the confession of the spoliator that he found lie could not accomplish the act of spoliation without the cordial co-operation of those he was going to rob. The commutation scheme put forward by the Home Secretary would, of course, be a grievous 1057 loss to the Church. It has been put forward by Mr. Gladstone in all good faith, and had his proposals been met by the Government not with generosity but with simple business fair play, they might have been favourably entertained by the Church. I desire to take this opportunity of offering the thanks of Churchmen in Wales to the Member for the Kilmarnock Burghs, Mr. Gladstone, for the way in which he brought forward this proposal for commutation in another place. I think his speech aroused the admiration of all parties in the House, and we are grateful to him, whether it proves successful or not, for having made this effort on our behalf.
I desire now to give from my own diocese what exactly will happen. I am prepared before any Court of Justice in the country to establish the accuracy of every detail I give. I say that because the only reply the Home Secretary has made is to say that the statement I am about to make has no connection with truth. I think that was his phrase. It is a general denial which does not carry much conviction without facts in support of it. If this Bill passes into law these will be its results in the Diocese of St. Asaph upon the death of the present. holders:—The Bishop will be left with nothing but the bare walls of the Palace, which was wholly built and paid for since 1791 by two Bishops of St. Asaph, who were men of large private means. The Cathedral, founded in 580, and restored—indeed, well nigh rebuilt—by Churchmen, within the last 100 years, will be left without one penny for dean or canons or choir. The whole of their incomes, and that of the Bishop, will be taken from the Church to which they have belonged for more than 1,000 years, and given to the Aberystwith, Bangor, and Cardiff Colleges, which are already endowed with £40,000 a year from public funds. Out of 209 parishes in the diocese, 116 will be left without one penny of their ancient endowments. The unclosed Churchyards, which are to many of us the dearest and most hallowed spots in the land, will be taken away from the Church, with no assurance whatever that their sacred character will be maintained. All the curates in the diocese will be turned adrift without one penny of compensation. To Churchmen, more important than any question of money is the fact that this Bill, if passed, will dismember the Church and thrust 1058 them out of their historic unity with the Church of England.
This measure cannot be discussed without some reference to Welsh Nonconformity. Here let me begin with facts which no one can dispute. The Methodist revivals which began in 1739 in Wales came from England. The first revivalists—Whitfield and Wesley —were Englishmen. In 1743, Whitfield was elected permanent president of the Methodist Societies in Wales, and to use his own phrase, "The brethren have put the societies in Wales upon my heart." These societies were composed of Churchmen, and remained within the Church until the beginning of the nineteenth century, when in the year 1811 the Calvinistic Methodist seceded from the Church. Now, I ask your Lordships to remember these facts. In the year 1801 the population of Wales was 587,000, and of that population all the Nonconformist bodies put together numbered less than 5 per cent. of the total. Nonconformity in Wales is English in origin, and a hundred years old.
Much has been said about continuity in these discussions. A student of the history of religion in Wales is compelled to recognise that the difference in fundamental doctrines between the British Church of the seventh century and the Welsh Church of to-day is essentially less than the difference between the founders of Welsh Methodism and its exponents to-day. There is scarcely a Methodist pulpit in Wales where the rigidly prescribed doctrines of their own trust-deed are not transgressed arid often repudiated by the Methodist preachers of to-day. The difference does not end here. We are told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this measure represents "the persistent demand of generation after generation of Welshmen." In the year 1834, at the annual association of the Methodists held at Bala and attended by over 500 preachers, this resolution was moved by John Elias, the greatest of the Welsh Methodists, and carried unanimously—That we deeply lament the nature of that agitation, now so prevalent in this kingdom, and which has for its object the severing of the National Church from the State, and other changes in ecclesiastical affairs. We therefore are of opinion that it pertains not unto us to interfere in such matters.It can hardly therefore be said that Disestablishment and Disendowment originated with the great religious leaders of 1059 Wales. I am on the most friendly terms with my Nonconformist brethren in Wales. I am not here to waste time in idle compliments or criticisms. I recognise the good work they have done in the past. I note with alarm that they are theologically traversing the same path as the continental Protestants. The significance of this fact I need not labour. But if I were here to defend Welsh Nonconformity, the last argument I would use would be that of the abundant accommodation supplied by their chapels. Why, in my own district there is one country parish with thirteen chapels, supplying accommodation for three times the number of the population, and not one of these chapels is half full. This is typical of the whole country.
It was said last week in the House of Commons by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that in those districts where the burden of the tithe was heaviest, there the work of the Church was the lowest. A formidable fact, I grant, if correct. It so happens that more tithe is paid in my diocese than in any diocese in Wales. My father and his sons worked as clergymen in that diocese, and their ministry covers nearly a hundred years, so that I may claim to speak with some knowledge of the work of that diocese. Taking the test of communicants or of Sunday School scholars, the diocese of St. Asaph, which is mainly agricultural, stands seventh, as Lord Kenyon has already pointed out, in the whole dioceses of England and Wales. I believe myself that in a census nearly half the people in the diocese would return themselves as Churchmen. You very often hear it said that it is a grievous injustice to the Welsh farmer who is a Nonconformist, to be compelled to pay tithe to a Church to which he does not belong. What are the facts? The amount of tithe paid in the diocese is £49,000 a year. Of that sum nearly £3,000 is paid by Roman Catholics and corporations, £6,000 is paid by Nonconformists, and a little over £40,000 is paid by Churchmen. We are told this is a national demand. Is language the test of Nationality? If so, the last published language census shows that half the people of Wales return themselves as monoglot English. Are they not to be regarded as part of the nation? Or are we to accept the absurdity that to be a Welsh Nationalist you must be a Radical and a Nonconformist.
1060 But I shall be told, Look at the political representation. Here again I ask, Does the Church exist only for the voter? Are there not thousands of non-voters and women and children to whom it ministers? But even taking the political record, only once (in 1895) has this question been put as a single and definite issue before the people of Wales. In that election I believe all except one of the seats in Wales were contested. Nine Members were returned from Wales opposed to Disestablishment and Disendowment, and still more significant is the fact that 42 per cent. of all the votes recorded were given to Unionist candidates. The recent election in the Flint Boroughs, which have not returned a Conservative for the last twenty-five years, was significant enough—the Liberal candidate, as I have already said, deliberately kept clear of Disendowment, and he carried the seat, not by Welsh, but by Irish votes. My brother the Bishop of St. Davids, who nobly came forward to take my place, will confirm me in this statement, that even with the help of the Irish the Liberal candidate would not have held the seat unless the opponents of Disendowment had been won over by the fictitious statement that the Church was only going to lose £60,000 a year.
What, I ask, is the justification for this measure? It is admitted on all hands that the Church has never done better work than she is doing at present. Never during all the long centuries of her existence have such a large number of the people availed themselves of her ministrations. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the population of the Principality was under 600,000, and to-day the Church ministers to nearly double that number. No defence has been offered for the secularization of these endowments. Small as they are, they are to be transferred largely to education. Last year £2,042,917 was spent from public funds upon education in Wales, and it cannot be contended that the small endowments of the Church are needed to swell this enormous expenditure. The discussion of this measure in another place has made some points very clear. The advocates of this Bill can no longer, without a blush—if they ever do blush—maintain that their motive in promoting this Bill is the welfare of the Church. The agitation itself in Wales for this Bill has followed an abnormal course. Thirty years ago it began with enthusiasm and 1061 very soon was attended by scenes of riot and violence. That phase has passed away entirely and the agitation, instead of acquiring fresh force as it travels, has been steadily dying down. If there were to-day a referendum to Wales on Disendowment, there would be, I believe, a majority against it, although there might be a majority for Disestablishment.
Finally, the unreality of this agitation has been vividly illustrated by its own advocates. If any one will trouble to read the debates in Parliament or the speeches of the Disestablishment Party in Wales during the last twenty years they will find that the arguments first levelled against the Church have been abandoned one by one. To-day nothing is left except the preponderance of Liberal Members from Wales. Whatever may be said in favour of treating Wales as a national entity, I submit that Wales cannot claim the right to mutilate the Church of England, still less can it do so when feeling and opinions on the question of Disendowment are slowly and profoundly changing in Wales itself.
I trust, my Lords, that this measure will be rejected. Its proposals cannot be defended at the bar of justice. The whole spirit of this measure represents an antiquated and discredited school of Liberalism, and the only accusations which can be brought against the Church have to be raked up amid the ashes of the eighteenth century, when the shortcomings of the Church in Wales were no greater than those of the whole Church of England. To-day, even her adversaries admit that the Church in Wales has opened a beneficent and fruitful chapter in her history, and that she is rising from elevation to elevation. Her endowments are too small for the work which she has to do, and to deprive her of those endowments at this moment means a crippling of work which all recognise as good. As a Welshman who is proud of being a Welshman, I oppose with all my heart and soul this measure as being anti-national. The Church in Wales is the only institution which has survived, through the long and stormy centuries of her history. The whole country bears the impress of her guiding hand in its parochial divisions and in its place names; and in every village, the Church is the only institution that links the Wales of to-day with the Wales of the past.
1062 Some years ago Mr. Gladstone, presiding at a Welsh Eisteddfod, pointed out the historical fact that in the sixteenth century the Welsh language, like the Cornish, was dying, and that it was rescued from death and became a vigorous and a literary language by the translation of the Bible into Welsh. That work was due, and due entirely, to a Welsh Bishop. The Church, which has preserved for the Principality its one distinctive badge of nationality, has firmly established its title to be regarded as truly national; but there are living and therefore more impressive grounds upon which the Church in Wales may rightly claim to be defended. For the last forty years the Church in Wales has stood alone in contending for the religious instruction of the children in our elementary schools, and it is to her influence and example that the abandonment of a purely secular system of education by so many of the Nonconformists is due. In the slum districts of all the great towns in Wales the bulk of time work is left to the Church, and in every town and hamlet her solicitude for the poor is ubiquitous and undenominational, and in that solicitude she has had no rival and can have no successor. The ministry of the Church is a resident and a pastoral ministry, and as the noble Lord, Lord Kenyon, has pointed out, in more than one-third of the parishes in my diocese the clergyman is the only resident minister of the gospel.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in an eloquent speech of which I recognise the moderation, said that religion in Wales must depend upon great ritual or great preaching. May it not be said that true religion must rest upon a firmer rock than either. He gave a graphic picture of a great preaching meeting held in his constituency and he said that what impressed him was the "consummate art of the preachers and the most marvellous exhibition of their powers." Recently he pointed out that a great change had come over the manner and the matter of Welsh preaching. That is true. And the meetings themselves have profoundly changed. There is a record of one of the great revival gatherings at the end of the eighteenth century in South Wales. The people travelled from afar—many journeying forty miles through the night—to receive the Holy Communion on the Sunday morning and to hear Rowlands, the great Revivalist clergyman—preach. They were there, we read, 1063 in their thousands, their hearts aglow with religious fervour and their eyes red with the tears of penitence. Truly a soul-stirring gathering! But what a washed-out copy of a glorious original is the preaching meeting of to-day, with its display of competing orators and its marvellous exhibition of their art and power. The difference goes deeper. If the finer elements in the Welsh character are to be nurtured and developed it will be by ministrations that are more constant and pastoral, and by influences that sink deeper than even the most gifted oratory. I believe in my heart that the Church in Wales, amid many difficulties and with many shortcomings, which I frankly admit, is contributing by her influence and her teaching most precious elements to the building up of character in Wales. This Bill if passed, will help no religious body in Wales; it will cripple the Church for many long years; it will leave in the hearts of Churchmen the consciousness of a great wrong done, and with this consciousness there will be a stream of bitterness, of the force and volume of which the advocates of this measure have formed no just estimate. For these reasons I trust that this measure will not received a Second Reading at your Lordships' hands.
My Lords, I am sure we have all listened with the greatest interest to the earnest and fervent words which have just fallen from the right rev. Prelate, and having regard to the stress under which he spoke we cannot be surprised if some expressions escaped him which were lacking in a fair consideration of the views and motives of his opponents. I hope, in replying to him, I shall not use any words which will hurt him or the feelings of those who are opposed to this measure. I shall apply myself to the measure, and keep as far aloof as I can from any remarks of a character which would in any way hurt the feelings of noble Lords opposite.
I should like at once to deal with the point which is fresh in the memory of your Lordships, as to the financial statements of the right rev. Prelate which apparently made some impression upon the House. He complained that the estimate of the ultimate residual benefit to the public and the estimate of the ultimate residual loss to the Church were understated against the Church and in favour of the public. Substantially I think the 1064 whole point of the controversy turns on the estimate with regard to the life interests of existing incumbents. It is quite true that when any great measure altering the status of any institution is passed, Parliament has always shown itself very careful to respect the life interests of those who are beneficially interested in the system with which it is proposing to deal. But the consideration of the life interests of the beneficiaries includes also the consideration of the interests of those who are to be the recipients of the services for which these beneficiaries are paid.
May I point out that in the case of the Irish Church there was a provision in the Bill for what was called cutting and compounding—that is to say, an incumbent was allowed to sell out to the State and to be quit of the obligation of serving by taking a smaller premium than he would have done if he had retained the obligation of service. I think the difference was certainly five or six years purchase; but, whatever it was, in so far as you secure to the body of worshippers in the Church in Wales the services of the existing ministers for their own lifetime, so far must you give them a substantial benefit. People talk as if a deferred charge was as heavy as a present charge. We were told by the right rev. Prelate something about what an accountant who was dealing with a bankrupt estate would expect, but I cannot imagine any accountant who would write down in the assets on one side a deferred annuity to take effect fifteen years hence as if it was an annuity in present enjoyment. That is an important thing to remember. I do not know what it is exactly calculated upon, but we are told that twelve or thirteen years' purchase is supposed to be the calculation of the life interests of existing incumbents. If nothing were done for twelve or thirteen years the Church would have the same services rendered to it as it has now, only as one incumbent died after another their salaries would gradually accrue to the State and some corresponding burden would fall on the local church members.
I should like to put this to noble Lords. Suppose this Bill, instead of saying that the emoluments should accrue to the State on the death of present incumbents after twelve or thirteen years, were to put it fifty years hence, would anyone say that Disestablishment and Disendowment hang- 1065 ing over your head at an internal of fifty years would not give you a very long lease? It is quite clear that where the worshipping body are secured the services for a certain number of years they do get a substantial return which they would have lost if the principle of cutting and compounding had been introduced. I have not the figures before me, and this is not a question on Second Reading which ought to be discussed with minute percentages, but if the House went into Committee it would be a question to be dealt with then. I am quite prepared, however, to accept, assuming the value of the life interests is £2,000,000, and that is going to yield invested £70,000 a year and the Church people of Wales were to subscribe some £60,000 a year, that at the end of the period when these life interests would have fallen in they would really find themselves in possession of the thing that had been bought out. The question of minute accuracy of calculation is not a large question in itself, but I understand the noble Earl in charge of the Bill has a Paper prepared, and I would ask him to lay it on the Table so that in the later days of this debate it may be accessible to other members of the House.
I am obliged to the noble Earl. I would say this to the right rev. Prelate who has spoken. I quite agree with him that figures raked up from the British Museum, whether correct or incorrect and going back to the year 1602, are quite irrelevant at the present day. Whether the number that was given of communicants in Wales at a remote period is out of the question because it was greater than the whole population of Wales at that time, or whether it is correct I do not know; but I would point this out, that certainly in 1602 it was a criminal offence not to take the communion, and therefore the fact of a person being a communicant in Wales need not necessarily prove more than a desire on his part to escape legal consequences. Therefore I do not think you can quote those figures as evidence of enthusiasm or lack of enthusiasm any more than you could quote as evidence of what was the intention of a pious donor that he left money to a school attached to the Church of England since 1066 he must have left it so attached or he could not have left it at all.
Another point was made about the harshness of this Bill with reference to the curates. If I am not mistaken, my impression is that under the Irish Church Act there was compensation to the curates, but in the estimate of the income of the incumbents under that Act the salaries paid to curates were to be deducted, whereas in the case of the estimate of the incomes of incumbents under this Welsh Church Bill the salaries of the curates are not deducted. As to the large increase in the number of curates at the time of the Irish Church Act which has been commented upon, I think the real foundation of that does not lie in the fact that there was compensation to the curates under that Act. The fact, if I recollect aright—one may read it in Archbishop Tait's "Life"—is that that was one of the bargains, one of the prices paid in those days, for getting the Bill through the House of Lords. That and several other emoluments were, I believe, the result of bargains made by your Lordships before you assented to the Bill going through.
Then the right rev. Prelate spoke in a way which a little surprised me as to the severance of the four Welsh bishoprics from the Province of Canterbury. He looked upon that as a point of vital importance. The right rev. Prelate knows a great more about these matters than I do, but my impression is that before the Reformation both dioceses and provinces were held under the one supreme authority and control of the See of Rome. But I am not aware that in England there is any legal tie that binds the Province of York to the Province of Canterbury, for example, except the fact that at the Reformation they all alike came under the Royal supremacy, and most certainly Parliament has never hesitated to shift dioceses from province to province, nor has it scrupled to alter the boundaries of dioceses. When Henry VIII founded the diocese of Chester he first of all placed it in the Province of Canterbury, but by a later Act of the same King it was transferred to the Province of York; and after the Ecclesiastical Commission of 1837 there was a very large shifting and shuffling of the boundaries of dioceses, some part of the diocese of Lincoln, for instance, being taken out of the Province of York and put into the Province of Canterbury. No diocese has 1067 ever been shifted from one province to another or its boundaries altered except by Parliament or by Orders under Parliamentary powers. That has always been done by Parliament, and not by any ecclesiastical authority whatever. I see the most rev. Prelate smiles scornfully at my ignorance, but certainly, so far as I am aware, these shiftings of boundaries of dioceses have always been clone by the act of the Crown and not by the act of the Church. The right rev. Prelate said it would be a terrible thing if Wales were to lose communion with the Church of England.
The right rev. Prelate spoke of the evil consequences which would ensue, and went on and said that the Church of Wales would lose communion with the Church of England. Is that correct?
THE LORD BISHOP OF ST. ASAPH
Those are not the exact words, but that was the point I was emphasising.
So long as I get the sense I am quite content. The right rev. Prelate said that Wales would lose communion with the Church of England, that in future Welsh Churchmen would belong to a Church without a history and without authority, that the representative body would have to create a system out of chaos, and that a new Church would have to be set up. It seemed to me that the most extreme person could not have used more unecclesiastical words about the character of the Church. I should like to ask the Episcopal Bench whether they consider that the various Colonial churches which have been disestablished as actual branches of the Church of England when they grew to maturity and became the Church of Africa, or of Canada, or whatever it may be, ever lost communion with the Church of England? Did the Irish Church lose communion with the Church of England when it was disestablished and separated? I am speaking in the broad sense. I know, of course, that in a narrow legal sense lawyers will say so. But their idea is not the idea of the Church as involving the continuity of spiritual life and the continual existence of the Church as a body expressing the Christian faith.
1068 In the case of South Africa, Colenso, and other cases, Bishop Gray of Cape Town ran up against the law. The Privy Council found that all the endowments of the churches in South Africa were endowments of churches in the Church of England, and when Bishop Gray, resenting the judgments of the Privy Council, determined to form what he called a Church of South Africa in communion with the Church of England, it was found that they could not get possession of the Church of St. George because the trust was a trust for the Church of England and the new church though claiming to be in communion with the Church of England refused to be bound by the Privy Council judgments. I think it is rather strange that ecclesiastics should ignore what from their point of view must be one of the essentials of the Church—the continuity of its organisation, doctrine, and liturgy, and all those things—and say that because a Church is disestablished it becomes a new Church. The defenders of the Established Church are never tired of telling us that there was no new Church established at the Reformation. I quite agree as a matter of law, and of law only. But go to a Roman Catholic and ask him if the Church at the Reformation was a new Church or not, and he will tell you distinctly that it was new but he probably would refuse to call it a Church That is probably what he would say, and it seems to me grossly inaccurate to talk as if there would be chaos when the Church is disestablished. Suppose an Arian king in Spain had ousted the Catholic bishops from their sees and installed Arian bishops, according to the right rev. Prelates the Arian Church would have been the one continuous Church of Spain and the evicted Catholics would have become, in the words of the Bishop of St. Asaph, a Church without a history and without authority.
Was it an impossible thing for the representative body to organise the Church of Ireland after they were disestablished? I am quite sure that all these suggestions are merely bogies, and are made in order to terrify the ignorant and the careless before the thing actually happens. I am confident that the four Bishops of Wales and their co-religionists will not find the slightest difficulty in organising themselves when the proposals of the Bill become law and they are once disestablished. The right rev. Prelate said that there had been. 1069 no attempt to define a layman. I agree it is rather a pity that there has not been given a Parliamentary definition of a layman, but I cannot help thinking that the newly organised Church will be able to define a layman. I will give them a liberal start off as to what a layman is for the purposes of the preliminary organisation. I should like to ask the right rev. Prelate, in a rhetorical way, whether he would accept as laymen in the new organisation of his Church all those indifferent people who he saws in a census would put themselves down as members of the Church of England, and whether he supposes by that method he might raise his members to nearly half the people of Wales.
I do not want to proffer any expression of opinion as to whether the Church of Wales when it is disestablished will really be better off after the first shock of the change has passed away, because I do not think people ever accept such assurances joyfully from those who disagree with them and whose sincerity they are rather apt to doubt, but I should like to say this, which is a slight modification of the words which the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of the Bill used. The noble Earl said he wanted to ret up the Welsh Church not the Church of England. I do not think you can set up the Welsh Church. I hope that the new organisation will set up what I call a Welsh Church, but I consider that every Welsh Christian is a member of one Church, although they may be divided in opinion on points of detail. I feel quite sure, and I think the right rev. Prelate who spoke just now will agree with me, and that the eloquent Prelate who comes from the See of St. David's will be ready also to affirm when he comes to speak, that they are Welsh patriots up to the hilt, and I think they would be sorry not to believe if they were managing their own affairs that some of the best Welsh characteristics would come out and assist in building up the new organisation. At any rate, when they do set up for themselves they will be able to manage their own affairs. I was rather surprised to hear the right rev. Prelate who spoke last say he had not met a Colonial Bishop who did not regret that his Church was not established.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
The right rev. Prelate is not in his place at the moment, but I do not think he said that, though I could not be sure.
Yes; it, was said in our hearing and we took it down. I am sure the right rev. Prelate will confirm me when I say those were the words he used. I think I may appeal to t he personal experience of the most rev. Prelate when he visited America, and he will not contradict me when I that several of the leading bishops of America pressed on him very strongly, though I fear not quite successfully, the great advantages they derived from being a free self-governing Church with no union with or dependence on the State. The right rev. Prelate spoke of his great devotion to the principle of Establishment. But I would point out to him that there are certain advantages in a free Church which would compensate him to some extent, at any rate, for not being a subsidised Church. High Church people are sometimes a little jealous of the idea that we are becoming so very national, but here we are getting more than national, we are getting provincial. Supposing the Province of Lichfield had survived its brief existence in the Saxon times we should have had three Provinces instead of two, and suppose the Welshmen had succeeded in keeping their Bishoprics away from Canterbury and had got a separate province for Wales, does any one suppose that the Welsh religion would have been less real, or that the organisation of that Church would less have followed the stream of time and the changing circumstances? I cannot imagine that for a minute.
I do not want to follow the noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill into all the details that he dealt with. I think minute details as to the diocese of St. Asaph are hardly germane to the discussion on Second Reading. You cannot pick out a particular parish and squabble over whether a certain incumbent loses £20, or £40, or £50. Those little local illustrations are not very germane. You may say if you like, "Taking the Church as a whole, we are going to lose much more than the £50,000 or £60,000 a year which you say we will lose." That is much more useful and is a thing which is open to argument. The right rev. Prelate gave rather a different definition of Establishment from that given by the noble Lord. The noble Lord said that the essence of Establishment was that in every village there is a good man whose ministrations can be claimed as a right by every parishioner. The right 1071 rev. Prelate gave us a different view of Establishment, and I thought it was a truer one. He began by saying that the vital essence of English Establishment lay in the headship of the Sovereign. We know there is a mutinous spirit among some of the clergy and even the Bishops, who when they do homage for their Bishoprics acknowledge that they receive their spiritualities as well as their temporalities from the Crown, and there is a section of Churchmen who chafe at the supremacy of the State, but still the headship of the Sovereign is the essence of Establishment. So is the second thing, Parliament. The right rev. Prelate mentioned that Parliament had a supreme voice in ecclesiastical legislation.
Then there was a smaller matter that he mentioned—namely, the Bishops sitting in Parliament. He went on and referred to the supremacy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and mentioned that every Bishop took the oath of canonical obedience to the Archbishop of Canterbury—that is in the Province of Canterbury. I do not know what the value of that is, but I suppose the oath of canonical obedience to an Archbishop means that he must be obeyed if his directions are in accordance with law but not if they are not in accordance with law. Therefore it is really canonical obedience to the final decision of the Privy Council, so I do not think that carries you much further. But certainly the Welsh Bishops will not have to take an oath of canonical obedience to the Archbishop of Canterbury but will be subject to an effective Synod which will have effective jurisdiction and control, and the laity also will have a substantial voice in the matter and will be able, if they like, as in the case of the Irish Church, to dispense with one or two things which many people in the Church of England would be glad to dispense with, and probably avail themselves of other things which many people in the Church of England would be glad to avail themselves of. They would also have, although I do not think they would gain very much by it, though some people think they would, the power of discipline over their members in matters, for example, relating to the marriage of a deceased wife's sister, and so on. I think if they are wide they will not try to push ecclesiastical interference too far with the rights of their members, but that, of course, would be a matter for 1072 them. At any rate they will not belong to a Church without a history or without authority. I believe the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of St. David's feels that he is in direct succession to the original founder of his see, and although no doubt he does not believe he possesses such supernatural power as the legendary St. David, yet I dare say he feels that he has some of his predecessor's apostolic grace.
I feel sure also that every Bishop feels something of the history of his see. The Bishop of St. Asaph told us that his cathedral was founded many centuries ago, and I have no doubt that that operates in his case, and that he will feel that you do not blot out history and create a new Church simply because you say that henceforth the Church of England in Wales is disestablished and the supremacy of the Crown will disappear. The continuity and identity of a Church does not depend on its relation to the State. It is not a mere question of enjoying £260,000 a year, or £160,000 a year, or £1,000 a year, and I do hope that the right rev. Bishops and others will take a much broader and more courageous view of the thing, and not feel because they are under the control of the State now that the control of the State is so vital to them that rather than go into the chill air outside the Church should remain cockered and fostered under this State patronage which is also State control and interference. I think your Lordships would be wise if you read this Bill a second time, because I feel sure that if you do not read it a second time now you will eventually see it passed into law over your heads.
§ [The sitting was suspended at a quarter to eight and resumed at a quarter past nine o'clock.]
THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
My Lords, I have, as far as I have been able, paid as close attention as possible to the speech of the noble Earl who introduced the Motion before us, and also to the speeches which followed that of the noble Earl, with an endeavour to find what were the grounds upon which was based the view of the justice of this measure. I must confess that I found it very difficult to arrive at any solid ground at all from the point of view of justice to the Church, its ancient traditions, and its undoubted ancient rights to the income of which it 1073 is possessed. The speech of the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of St. Asaph was a most convincing defence of the position of the Church, and seems to me to hold the ground at present. We must await some further arguments for the justice of this attack upon the Church, and this policy of Disestablishment and Disendowment, before we can be convinced that it is for the good either of the Church or of the State. But the arguments that can be used for or against Disestablishment are totally different, and naturally must be so, from those which are used for or against Disendowment. The one is a question of policy mainly. The other is a question of fairness and justice as regards the right of a certain body or corporation to hold the funds to which it has been entitled for many centuries.
I should like to say a few words about Disestablishment before coming to the further question of Disendowment. Because the arguments that have been used have been mainly directed against Disendowment, we have been unfairly twitted with not caring about Disestablishment and really only caring about the money loss which the Church will suffer by Disendowment. All that I wish to say upon this point is that for my part I entirely object to and oppose the policy of Disestablishrnent. I noticed that in another place the Home Secretary talked of the Establishment of the Church in Wales as being immoral. I gathered that he used that particular word because a majority of the people in Wales at the moment did not happen to be in accord with the Church that was Established; but the meaning of its being moral or immoral is to my mind very difficult to understand, because it seems, according to his argument, to depend upon the counting of heads, and that it would be immoral for a Church to be Established if it happened to represent a minority but would not be immoral if it happened to represent the views of the majority. I believe that the State is the better for an acknowledgment of religion in the form of an Established Church. I believe that the policy of Disestablishment is unsound, on the main ground that it is hurtful to the state; and I should personally go quite as far as this, that if it were an undoubted fact that a majority of the people in the country were in favour of the establishment of another form of the Christian religion to the one that is at present estab- 1074 lished—if there were a clear majority of feeling in the country in favour of that—I would rather that another form of Christianity were established than that we should have no Established Church at all.
But I object particularly and entirely to the form which Disestablishment takes under this Bill. The Church in England and Wales is one. I venture to say you have no more right to disestablish the four dioceses of the Church in Wales than you have to disestablish either collectively or singly any other group of dioceses in the Church of England. By this Bill you inflict, as was pointed out by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of St. Asaph, a very gross injustice on Churchmen in Wales, who are, so to speak, expelled from that close connection with the Church in England which they have considered of the utmost value for many centuries past. Churchmen in Wales say they want to remain as they are. By this Bill they are practically told that they are expelled from Convocation in the Province of Canterbury, that they must shift for themselves; and you do this by legal enactment at a time when you know that the Nonconformists of Wales object to the idea of separation from their co-religionists in this country, because they feel it would weaken their position, their influence, their authority, and their work in the Principality.
In passing, may I say that I think the noble Earl who began this debate was quite unable to appreciate the particular reason that we have for feeling very strongly on this subject, when he suggested that there was nothing sacrosanct in the Province of Canterbury, and that but for geographical reasons the four Welsh dioceses might have been in the Province of York. May I say to him that that is quite irrelevant? It does not matter whether they happen to have been in the Province of York or in the Province of Canterbury; but what we do consider is a very gross and grave injustice is that we should be expelled from that close connection with the Church which in my view is one in England and in Wales, and that we must be told in Wales that we must shift for ourselves and not have the advantages of that common ground of government and of administration which is given to us by our connection with the Archbishopric of one of the Provinces in England. In my view this is a sufficient reason in itself 1075 for determining that the Disestablishment of the Church cannot be done and ought not to be done piecemeal and in compartments. Any argument that you can use for Disestablishment in Wales applies equally—and I think nearly all the arguments used by the noble Earl in his opening speech applied equally—to Disestablishment throughout England and Wales; and though personally I should oppose a Disestablishment Bill if it dealt with the whole of the Church in England and Wales because I think it is wrong and that the result would be a grievous harm to the State, I should not oppose it for the same reason that I do now—namely, that you are committing a gross injustice to a section of the Church and not dealing with it as one and indivisible.
The arguments against Disendowment are, of course, of a very different nature. We oppose what we say is the gross injustice of seizing Church property without the excuse of misapplication of their funds and of maladministration. We ask what are the reasons for committing this injustice. In the main I think that the supporters of this Bill shelter themselves behind vague phrases such as the Church being possessed of a certain amount of national property, of money that had been given to the people and belonged to the people and to the nation. Those are all very vague but very popular forms of appealing to the public. You use that argument just as if the conditions were the same now as they were anywhere varying between 600 and 1,200 years ago. Of course the conditions are entirely different. I admit what has been said by the noble Lord opposite, Lord Sheffield, that for purposes of education it is true no doubt that certain moneys may have been given to the Church because the Church at that time was the only body or corporation which could administer those moneys for the purpose of education. It has also been said that certain endowments were given to the Church in ancient days in order to provide for prayers for the dead, which are now by the Church's laws not possible to fulfil in the Church of England. But surely this argument is worth very, very little. In those days, many hundred years ago, you had totally different conditions, and because now you have a rich State that can take, and rightly take, some of the services which had to be performed by the Church, and because 1076 all the details that may have been enjoined upon the Church when this money was first of all given to it cannot be fulfilled, you seem entirely to ignore the fact that the work of the Church itself has increased hundreds of fold since those days, and that the duties it now has to perform are at least as important as those which it may have given up. You propose to take £150,000 a year for purposes of education and other purposes named. Although this is a paltry sum to a rich State, it is a very serious encroachment on the funds of the Church which now administers that money, and administers it, admittedly, I believe, on all sides, to the best of its ability and with very great success.
Let me for a moment turn to the reasons for committing this injustice. It is said that a majority of the people in Wales desire this Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in another place the other day said that the Welsh people are the best judges of what is best for their own spiritual welfare. But if the act you are going to commit is itself unjust, of course it is impossible to rely for the purposes of defence on a majority of the people. One of the most elementary duties of a Government in a civilised country is to protect—it is a commonplace to say so—the weak against the strong, and to protect minorities against injustice by majorities. That is the most elementary duty of the Government, and they cannot plead the fact—it may be a fact, although it is not by any means an undisputed fact to the extent that it is assumed to be—that the majority of the Welsh people do desire Disestablishment. That of itself cannot be a solid basis for arguing that it is right and just that Disestablishment should take place. Then there are considerations with reference to the growth of the population, and the enormous increase of duties and responsibilities the Church has to accept in order to keep pace with these new demands, and the notable success in a great many directions of these efforts— all these considerations are swept aside, and you turn to what I must call the rather mean task of inquiring whether all the endowments given so many centuries ago are now fulfilling exactly the same purpose as that to which they were devoted when they were given.
There have been some unworthy arguments used, and I must say I think the 1077 noble Earl in charge of the Bill was one of those who used what I must call unworthy arguments—I mean in explaining how little the Church would suffer by these endowments being taken from them, and when he said that a very small extra contribution by members of the Church would make good this deficiency. I noticed that the Home Secretary also used this argument the other day, but he put it in rather a different way. He said that a subscription of a penny a week from communicants would refund the sum that was being taken away from the Church, and I think the noble Earl opposite said that an addition to every £ that was subscribed—that is, to the £290,000 privately subscribed by Churchmen—to the funds of the Church, 3s. 6d. or 3s. 4d. would supply the deficiency that the Church would suffer if this Bill were to pass. The Home Secretary said that the whole of this claim is based on a refusal to admit the need that members of the Church of England should show something like the generosity in support of their Church that Nonconformists show in support of theirs. I cannot understand on what that kind of argument is based. Churchmen do now subscribe, as we have beer told, a sum of something like £290,000 for Church purposes, and I have very little doubt that in the long run with sufficient time Churchmen will be found to support the Church to the point of making good what they will suffer by this Bill. But such an argument is no justification whatever for taking away the funds unless you have proved that the Churchmen are not entitled to these funds, or that they have maladministered them or misappropriated them. You might as well imagine a highwayman addressing his victim and saying, "I am quite justified in taking your gold because your friends will make up what I have taken from you." I remember a story in which there was a certain highwayman called Galloping Dick, and if I remember rightly he held up a Bishop on the highway, and they had rather an interesting conversation at the time; but Galloping Dick was, in his own way, a gentleman, and I venture to say that he would have scorned such an argument as that.
It comes really to this, that you have to prove the case of the justice of taking away these funds, besides the policy of Disestablishment. There is one thing I should 1078 like to ask the noble Earl opposite. I understood him to say in his speech that the burial grounds were left to the Church, but I think that is not correct. All that is left to the Church are burying grounds that have been entirely filled up; and the burial grounds now used, the churchyards, that is, that are now in use are taken away from the jurisdiction of the Church up to the very church dour. But my point is that you have really got to prove to us that the endowments of the Church are excessive and are not being properly used before you can hope to establish the justice of this act of Disendowment. I do not think there has been an attempt by any one to prove this. At any rate, if there has been an attempt, in my opinion you have signally failed. If that theory is, as I think it is, a rotten one, the whole structure falls to the ground. No reliance on majorities is of any avail at all, and I feel pretty certain that you will be convicted by future generations of forcing through Parliament, a Parliament that has been already stripped of its Constitutional powers, a Bill that has no justification whatever on the score of justice and is founded on a mistaken policy with regard to both the State and the Church.
LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH
My Lords, I do not mean to intervene for more than a few minutes in this debate, because there are other members of your Lordships' House whom I know you are anxious to hear. There seems to be a feeling springing up out of doors, and it is not without some justification, that looking at this Bill as a whole, and looking between the lines of it, an attack is being made upon religious teaching by enemies of religion, who, in attacking one particular Church—namely, the Established Church in Wales—have made adroit use of the unfortunate differences, or perhaps we may call them jealousies, which are supposed to exist and no doubt do exist to a certain extent between religious bodies, and are being very much engineered by Party politicians for their own ends; and that they are also making use of the wretched abuse of our Party system which has been carried to most gross and unjustifiable lengths. That is an evil, my Lords, which is almost daily growing, and if not dealt with sooner or later it seems the Church and its prosperity and even the existence of our country will be endangered. This 1079 measure, it is a matter of common knowledge, has been carried through by main force in another place by the use of the guillotine and the lash of the Party Whip, and Members in another place have been coerced by those means into passing a measure which I do not think it is unjust to say a great many men of their own Party are thoroughly ashamed of.
The real point of this Bill, if I may say so without the least disrespect, is, in fact, Disendowment, although I do not for a moment wish to minimise the importance of Disestablishment by itself. There are many men, and many members, no doubt, of your Lordships' House, who attach still greater importance to the question of Disestablishment by itself than to any question of Disendowment, which might savour of mere monetary considerations. I to a great extent sympathise with that feeling, because, not to dwell upon it too long, it seems that Disestablishment is something coming dangerously near to a national repudiation of religion. Unfortunately in this world one cannot get on without substantial support in the way of revenue and resources, and when you are dealing with Disendowment you are crippling the resources of the Church, and the more you cripple the means of a Church the more you cripple its work.
The noble Earl who introduced this Bill alluded to the property of the Church, and endeavoured to show, by quoting a formidable array of figures, that the evils that some people dwell upon with regard to Disendowment are not so bad as they are made out to be. He endeavoured to show that the injury, if injury there was, was very much less than people made out, or that they feared. My reply to that is that in the case of an admittedly poor Church any curtailment of means is an injury and an act of unfairness, although it may not be quite so bad as might previously have appeared. The property of the Church consists, of course, of several things. Besides tithe rent charge there are endowments, ancient and modern, and there are various benefactions, and then there are glebes. I notice in the Bill certain clauses which, if I may use a common form of expression, are "pin pricks," and seem to me to do needless harm to Church property. There is certain property taken away from the Church and certain property left to 1080 it. With regard to the property which is left to the Established Church, instead of being simply left to it, it has, first of all, to be transferred to the new body of Welsh Commissioners, and then it has to be by them retransferred to a new body which is to deal with Church matters. There is a double transfer in this matter, all entailing considerable expense, worry, and trouble, and it seems to me to be a needless curtailment of Church funds which are none too big already. It is, perhaps, a minor point of the Bill, but I think it is none the less worthy of mention.
Now what is the argument for this Bill? What is it based upon? A great many arguments have been brought forward and a great many things have been said here; but I think the main argument may be crystallised into some such form of words as these. It is said that one Church should not be maintained in any degree by such things as tithes or general taxation to the exclusion of other Churches, and more especially when that Church happens to be—and I will admit for the sake of argument that it is so in Wales, though not quite, perhaps, to the extent it is made out to be—the Church of a minority. It is said that the State supports a particular form of religion in the country, and that it derives benefits which ought to be extended to more than one Church; and it is argued that it is a great hardship to many of the community who do not happen to believe in the doctrines of that Church. But that is no reason why tithes should be diverted from religious to secular purposes. That seems to me to be the gross unfairness of this Bill, and I think it is a point which does not seem to have attracted very much attention out of doors, although it has been alluded to in Parliament.
If it is settled that tithes should be continued for the benefit of religious communities, and if it is unfair that they should be devoted wholly to the service of one Church, surely other Churches and other religious denominations should share in the yield of the tithes. But one of the most curious provisos in this remarkable Bill works out so as to provide that the Free Churches, the dissenting bodies as they are sometimes called, do not get any benefit. It would be natural to think that if the Church is divested of a portion of her property—and many people say she is being robbed of a certain amount 1081 of her property—the money should, as far as possible, be fairly divided amongst the other religious denominations. But they are to get nothing, and it would seem as if they had been rather shabbily treated by the Government and by the promoters of the Bill. In the course of years these so-called Free Churches have become, not religious bodies in the sense of being such in the way that the Church of England is in regard to questions of doctrine and ancillary questions of Church government, but little by little they seem to Lave lost their religious nature and to have become quite as much bodies of a political nature as of a religious nature, and certainly political in the sense of being supporters of one particular Party in the State..
But the ingenious part of this Bill seems to be that although this money taken from the Established Church is not directly given to the other religious bodies, qua religious bodies, it will go to the county councils, which, I suppose, in Wales may be fairly described as to a great extent controlled by the Party machine. So that what is taken way with one hand apparently is redistributed with the other. It seems to be an ingenious plan, and though it is ingenious it is very simple. I am afraid the money that is paid over to the county councils will, to a great extent, be wasted, and I am afraid there will be a strong tendency to spend the money upon some useless and very expensive buildings for municipal uses, and there will be a great temptation to give the contracts for these buildings to supporters of one particular Party. There is another objection, which is that the property transferred to the county councils may be held as security for a large loan if desired, and it will be very difficult, even if it were desired, to restore the tithes to religious purposes or to get hold of them again, because they will be already set aside as security for some such proposal.
My Lords, you are dealing with a very serious state of affairs. Is there no possible means of coming to a fair compromise by some process? You are faced with the possibility that events may be too strong for you, and that you must deal with a matter which you cannot thoroughly shut out. I sometimes think that it is not altogether impossible to come to a fair com- 1082 promise on a matter like this. I think, supposing that another proposal is introduced into Parliament simply on the lines of discontinuing tithes and letting the Established Church stand upon her own feet independent of State aid, that that to a great extent would go towards minimising the difficulty. You would let other properties of the Church remain as they are, but it should no longer be supported by a State tax. I merely throw that out as a crude suggestion, but it might possibly be worked out to bear fruit. Church rates were established some years ago for the maintenance of the fabric of the church, and when they were objected to it was on the ground that many people who did not belong to the Church had to pay these rates, and they were properly and fairly abolished; but, so far from the Church having suffered from that, there has been an enormous amount of extra money collected since the rates were abolished, and I think it would be a good thing if some compromise in regard to this Bill could be arrived at on these lines. It is a difficult question, and if it could be settled on fair lines nobody would be better pleased than I. But meanwhile, looking at this Bill as a whole, there seems to be no real justification for it. It is an unfair and a cruel Bill, and I fully sympathise with those of your Lordships and with many people outside who hold that under no circumstances should a Bill of this nature be allowed to pass. On these grounds I hope that your Lordships will not consent to pass the Bill as it now stands.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
My Lords, you will expect me to say a few words to-night, first, as Bishop of London, to stand by the Welsh Church, and, in the second place, because my name has been somewhat prominently mentioned by the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of this Bill. With regard to what he said, my task has been considerably lightened by the eloquent speech of my brother the Bishop of St. Asaph, who made his speech in touching circumstances which I am certain will command the sympathy of all your Lordships. I am certain that no one will maintain for a moment that I was speaking of the vicar of Wrexham except in his corporate capacity, and if Lord Harlech were here he would bear me out in that. At the risk of wearying your Lordships I will prove by means of the 1083 archdeacon's letter and the vicar of Wrexham's that my statement that the vicar of Wrexham's income in future will be reduced to £13 is strictly accurate, and that the noble Earl in charge of the Bill was mistaken when he said £131. Even with the addition of the Church which he irrelevantly reckoned in as part of the living, it would only be £94. This is the statement of the Archdeacon of Wrexham, to whom I telegraphed yesterday on this particular point—The gist of my conversation at Wrexham was: (1) Under the Established Church (Wales) Bill as introduced into the House of Commons a future vicar of Wrexham, a parish in which £97,385 have been raised by voluntary effort during the last twenty years for Church purposes (vide Landmarks in the History of the Welsh Church by Bishop of St. Asaph) will retain only £13 per annum endowment, unless he is also Minister of St. Mark's, in which case he will retain £94 !I am sorry to weary your Lordships with quotations, but the point having been raised I think it is due to myself to be accurate, and I will read a letter of the 10th instant from the vicar of Wrexham to myself—In the Report of the Welsh Church Commission, Vol. I, Part II, Appendix A, Page 39, the income of the benefice of Wrexham is correctly stated as follows:—£33 from rents of lands, prior to 1703; £620 from tithe rent charge, prior to 1703; £42 from other sources, prior to 1703; £13 from private benefactions since 1703. In the above cases it makes no difference whether the date be 1703 or 1662. Another item of £118 tithe commutation appears under Wrexham in the above Report as a 'private benefaction since 1703,' but that is not an endowment of the benefice of Wrexham, but this tithe was bought by a lady some fifty years ago and conveyed to four trustees, the income to be applied annually towards paying the stipend of the Priest-in-charge of St. Mark's Church—a chapel of ease to the parish church. It is not part of the income of the benefice of Wrexham, not a penny of it has ever come into my pocket, and it is not reckoned by the, Income Tax Commissioners as part of my income but as part of the income of the Priest-in-charge of St. Mark's Church. It is manifest, therefore, that under the Bill the benefice of Wrexham will be stripped bare of its endowments with the exception of the above £13.I am quite certain that the noble Earl did not wish to make any misstatements on the matter—
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
Will you allow me to explain? With regard to the point as to Canon Davies having his income reduced to £13 a year, I understand the right rev. Prelate entirely withdraws that statement?
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
I thought I had explained that. It may have been a reporter's error. At any rate it was not the meaning I meant to convey, nor, as the Bishop of St. Asaph has said, was it the meaning which the audience carried away. I am quite sure the House will accept my assurance.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
Yes; I thought the right rev. Prelate did not wish to say that Canon Davies's income would be so reduced. Turning to Sir Lewis Dibdin's Report and the Return which he made to the Royal Commission, your Lordships will see, at page 39 of Vol. I, Part II, that the £118 is reckoned as part of the endowment of the vicar of Wrexham. If I understand rightly, the Bishop of St. Asaph said there had been a division since then between the two. I rather gathered that from the Bishop of St. Asaph though not from what the right rev. Prelate has said, but when I have made inquiries with regard to that I shall be very glad to make a further statement when we have the official figures before us.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
I am quite satisfied with that, only I wish to be quite clear on this point. Then with regard to the little rural deanery of Bangor, these are the facts. Taking this rural deanery by itself as an example, there is a real hardship under the Bill. That is my point. As to the parishes of the deanery in question I will hand the figures with pleasure to the noble Earl after I have read them. In one parish the figure of £481 is reduced to nothing—subject, of course, to the life interest; in another, £177 is reduced to nothing; in another, £247 is reduced to £32; in another, £250 to about £60. One parish of £480 is reduced to nothing; another of £378 to nothing. One parish of £84 is reduced to £24, plus £63, which I have added in now as being allowed later on by the Government. In another parish, £274 is reduced to nothing. In regard to this deanery as a whole the income is £2,769 at present, but it is reduced to £485 under the Bill. If that is not hard dealing I do not know what hard dealing is.
I wish to call attention also to one or two other figures which the noble Earl laid before your Lordships in bringing forward this Bill. I took them down very carefully at the time, because I thought he drew a much too rosy picture of what 1085 he believed would be the result if the Bill should pass. But there are two figures concerning which I have one or two words to say. The first is this £50,000 from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. That is the second figure his Lordship gave. Now it is quite true that this sum is paid at present, and I hope as a member of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners I shall see it is paid. But if the policy of the noble Earl is carried out the Church of England itself will be disestablished and disendowed, and in that case in dealing with a thing for all time you cannot reckon the £50,000 as sound money. But I have a much more important point than that. There is another figure of £31,000. We were told that the income of the Church at present was £260,000 a year. As against that there was to be a certain sum of £31,000 reckoned to be given to us as one of the assets of the Church. Yes; but what is that £31,000? It is really money belonging to the Welsh Church, and if you reckon it in this place you must reckon it at the top too. If you reckon at the top you have got to consider the whole amount as £291,000, and in that case this £51,000 will have to be made up to £82,000 at least, arid unless that £82,000 is contributed by the Church for ever then the whole commutation scheme which is offered us goes to the wall.
I pass from these figures with great relief, and go on, if I may, to answer the very temperate speech of the noble Lord, Lord Sheffield. I agree largely with what he said with regard to the continuance of the Church's life, but what his Lordship did not quite seem to understand was that the sense of grievance is that our oldest brethren should be forced from us against their will and against the will of the whole religious community. It was stated by one speaker earlier in the evening that the Nonconformists themselves have come to a decision on the matter as to whether there should be a Free Church Council for England and Wales, or a separate Council in England and in Wales; and quite unanimously, I understand, they agreed that it was bad for the Free Church of Wales to be cut off from the Free Church of England. That was an expression of their own opinion, and they are naturally free to have their own opinion in the matter. I suggest that it is an act of cruelty, or indeed of political impertinence, to forcibly separate our Welsh brethren from us.
1086 Then I go on to ask the question, Who demands this act of spoliation? And here, of course, we have ad nauseam the 31 Welsh Members brought up against us. But wait a moment. There is a fallacy underlying what the noble Earl said in bringing in this Bill. I cannot deny the existence of the 31 Members, but did every one vote for those Members in order that the Church might be disendowed and Disestablished? On our Church Defence platforms we have had a lot of young Radical miners, and at one of these demonstrations one bright young miner said in his speech, "Do you suppose that when I voted for this Government I voted for the disestablishment of my Church? No; it was because I thought I should get better wages and improve my position. That is what my mates and I were thinking of." Then he described, with tears in his eyes, the little church that he loved, with its 77 communicants which had risen to 500, and he said, "We were not voting for the disestablishment of our own Church." The noble Earl rather cheapened the demonstrations at which I have been present, but I may say I have added all the task of speaking at them to rather overwhelming work as a pure labour of love for the Church in Wales. One demonstration I shall never forget. It was held at Mountain Ash a few months ago. It was pouring wet, and there was a very large hall to be filled. I must say that on my way I could not help feeling sorry for the committee for I felt that it was going to be what is generally described as a "frost." But there were 14,000 people packed into that hall ! Some had come 14 and 15 miles through the sloppy wet rain, and when I read out the statement of Mr. Masterman they laughed, and then they were furious. What was Mr. Masterman's statement? He said—Those who demand religious equality in Wales are miners, schoolmasters, poor men raised in cottages and other places, sailors, and preachers—the representatives of every class of the democracy of the nation. Who are the men who are fighting with the zeal that sometimes carried them away in protesting against this particular change? They are not the miners, not agricultural labourers, not schoolmasters, not men of the poorer classes; they are all noble Lords or their cousins or relations.I wish you had seen the indignation with which these men were full when they found their Church had been scouted in that way and the statement made that there were no working men in Wales who loved their Church. I think there would be a waking-up some 1087 day if the matter were put to an election upon this point alone. And, again, could there be half a million signatures sent up from Wales if there were no strong minority on the other side? I ask then, On what ground is it proposed to do this? Everybody admits that all this is only trust property. That I believe to be the real truth. When people have spoken about the Church's property, it is to be remembered that it is trust property and is to be administered according to the trust. But you can only take away property in our country on three grounds—first, that there is too much of it; secondly, that it has been misapplied; and, thirdly, that it does not really belong to the trustee. Now can you possibly justify any one of these three grounds with regard to the property of the Welsh Church? First of all, is it too much? I have been serving with the two Archbishops upon a number of charities for the benefit of the clergy of England and Wales, and they will bear me out that again and again I have had to say in administering these charities, "Now in justice to the poor clergy of England we cannot give the Welshmen all they require, although in regard to the cases of poverty that come up Wales always on the figures shows the worst case of poverty." The Welsh clergy to-day are struggling with the greatest difficulty to keep their heads above water. It is monstrous to say that the clergy are overpaid, or that there is too much money for the Church.
Then if it is not too much, is it misapplied? Let me quote what the Prime Minister said in 1909, and we ought all to acknowledge the fairness with which he spoke on this question. He said—.Everybody knows that during the last 70 years, at any rate, in the Church of England in Wales there has been opened a new chapter, a new, beneficent and fruitful chapter, in her history. She has learnt, alas too late ! the lessons of the past. She now, by every means which an enlightened ecclesiastical statesmanship and a strong spiritual devotion to the best needs of the Welsh people could dictate, is overtaking, or endeavouring to overtake, the arrears of the past.In the debates of this year Mr. Asquith has made the same admission—Things have changed, and no one has acknowledged more fully than I have during the whole of this controversy the great work which the Anglican Church in Wales has been doing for a generation past, not only to make atonement for the shortcomings of the past, but to discharge the duties which it owes to the community.1088 We thank him for that frank statement. It cuts the ground from under the idea that the trust funds of the Welsh Church have been misapplied. On the contrary they have been well applied. You are driven, therefore, to the third alternative—namely, to prove that these funds do not belong to the Welsh Church. Now I have never had any answer to the question—I have asked it over and over again at every great demonstration which I have attended —with regard to prescriptive right, "If twenty-five years is good enough for a Nonconformist, why is not 300, and I might say 700, years good enough for the Church?" There really is no answer. I hope that noble Lords who speak afterwards will make a point of answering that question. Instead of directly answering it, many attempts are made to get round it.
There have been various theories put forward mutually contradictory of one another. The first is the theory that the Church property really belongs to the Roman Catholics, and that they are the aggrieved people; that it was taken away from them and given to someone else. Mr. Lloyd George has made a great deal of that. He has said—In all things that are to be regarded as essential by the Church itself and by Christendom itself the Church cannot claim that it is anything but a complete change from the old system.Again, in 1912—Suppose you had trust property now given to an institution in connection with the Church of Rome and the trustees became members of the Church of England; if they went to the Courts, is there any Judge in this land who would say, 'It is the same thing'? There is only one thing that would give a title to an Anglican trustee who had formerly been a Catholic, and that is an Act of Parliament, and it is an Act of Parliament that gives it now and therefore it is a statutory and Parliamentary title.Now as to this, the Prime Minister, speaking on another occasion, said—We are often referred on this question to the legislation of the Reformation. It follows from what I have said that I am not one of those who think, as used to be currently assumed, that the legislation of Henry VIII transferred the privileges and endowments of a national Establishment from the Church of Rome to the Church of England. I believe that view rests upon imperfect historical information.I need not pursue that subject then further.
I will now deal with what the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of St. Davids called the Home Secretary's freak theory of the origin of tithe. It will be remembered that 1089 Mr. Lloyd George, when the Royal Commission was appointed, said—The evidence and facts collected and sifted carefully by the Royal Commission they might depend upon it would be accepted by English public opinion as more or less settling the dispute.At the end of a long discussion the Commission declared that no conclusion could legitimately be arrived at (owing to the obscurity of the subject) upon the origin of tithes in Wales. That, however, does not deter the Home Secretary from being particularly dogmatic as to what it is. He is quite certain that it is a tax. We have to quote against that view the pretty safe authority which we have in Bishop Stubbs who deliberately declared that in his judgment the property of the Church in Wales originated "beyond the age of record," and was "far away the most ancient possession of the Church," and that the Welsh Bishops brought with them "into the one system of established Churchmanship possessions of lands, tithes, canons, customs, and traditions which they had from an antiquity to which our oldest foundations cannot pretend." I come now to one whom I venture to believe might be looked upon as an authority by some of those on the Benches on my right hand—namely, Sir William Harcourt. In the House of Commons, in April, 1894, on the question of tithes, he said—It is a fallacy to say that tithe is a tax upon land. It is nothing of the kind. Everybody who purchases land chargeable with tithe pays so much less for it than he would pay if it were tithe free.The last, and it seems to me the favourite, argument advanced by those who avoid answering the direct question why, if the period of twenty-five years is good enough for a Nonconformist, then why not 300 or 700 for the Church, is the tripartite division of tithe—narnely, that one-third was meant for the poor. But if one-third is for the poor why take three-thirds, even on that argument? The whole tithe is to be taken from the Church; yet only one-third, according to that argument, was ear-marked for that charge. But this tripartite division is repudiated as a matter of fact by every historian. Notably so by the late Lord Selborne, whose opinion we respect so much. He said—Putting these aside, the fact is that no law of arty kind was over made in England, or can be shown to have been accepted as of force in England, in which it was laid down, 'clearly' or otherwise, that the poor were to have any share, even in non-parochial tithes. As to rectorial or vicarial tithes, all law and history are to the contrary,1090 Then Dr. Stubbs says—I am afraid that I must add, as in very honesty I am bound to do, a solemn protest against the interpretation of history which is promulgated by the advocates of change, and their unscrupulous use of arguments long ago and absolutely disproved, as to the Origin and law of tithe, the tripartite division, and other points, which, whilst as commonplaces of the destructive party generally they have been pressed with tentative modesty, have in the mouths of advocates of Welsh Disestablishment been put with a virulence of invective and a disregard of argumentative cohesion that is itself suggestive of anything but sincere or spiritual or even rational consistency.Lord Selborne and Dr. Stubbs are fairly good authorities against the tripartite division of tithe.
Then there is the idea that there is something altogether radically wrong in endowment. Then why should the Non-conformist bodies—small blame to them—spend so much time and trouble now in building up sustentation funds, which are practically endowments? Your Lordships may perhaps know that many years of my life were spent in the East End of London. Is it possible that we could have held our own—and the Church was the only body holding its own in these miles of poor slums, for chapel after chapel was shut up while the Church stayed—had it not been for endowments? The vicarage may be poor and dingy, but still the man, perhaps not a great preacher, was there, to whom the poor people could come in sickness and trouble. It was because of our endowments that we held our own and do so to-day. And from the point of view of the experience of our Nonconformist brothers it is perfectly clear that the argument to which I have referred will not hold water.
Then there is the last argument that Disestablishment and Disendowment will be good for the Church, an argument which I notice has not been much mentioned lately in the debates in another place. I always think there is something that savours of unreality and even of hypocrisy in this argument. We are told by Mr. Hobhouse that all we have to do is to start at once and raise £100,000 a year and so replace our £4,000,000. Yes; but see how tong it took in London to raise one and a-half millions for the Bishop of London's fund. We have just raised the sum in fifty years, and we are going to commemorate this year the fact. Meanwhile, as the population grows 1091 in Wales we ought not to be getting back to our position of forty or fifty years ago, but we ought to be expanding and progressing, and therefore it seems to me impossible to say that it is good for the Church to put any more begging on the Bishops. There is more than there should be now. The clergy, too, are broken down, not by work, but by begging. Therefore I cannot agree with the argument that the taking away of endowment is at all for the good of the Church. No, my Lords, it is a cruel and undeserved blow upon our brothers in Wales. We must stand by them all we can; and we will. There is still time, I believe, to avert it; and I ask your Lordships to refuse to give a Second Reading to a Bill which would inflict such a blow on a vigorous and thriving Church.
§ LORD PONTYPRIDD
My Lords, it is my unfortunate position to have to follow the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London in this debate. He has treated the figures that he has dealt with so well that I cannot help thinking what an excellent chartered accountant he would have made, supposing he had taken to that vocation in life. In treating the matter he spoke of the money as forming a trust. I understand that the Government have something to say about trusts, and I personally am quite willing that the Government should treat this matter in their own way. One point put forward was as to twenty-five years being good enough for a Nonconformist, and it was asked why should not 300 be good enough for the Church? I never knew that a Nonconformist had anything to do with tithes; but I understand that is where all the difficulty is as between the twenty-five years and the 300 years. That is the only answer I can give at present. But I must say I expected that the right rev. Prelate would have had something more to say on the other side of the question. He has not said a single word about Disestablishment. He read some words from a speech made some time ago on the subject, and I hope he will also allow me to quote a few words.
It has been said, speaking of a recent visit to America, that it was like going from a close atmosphere into a glorious, large, bright, and generous atmosphere, where one escapes from the eternal wrangling of High Church and Low Church, 1092 and Nonconformist and Churchman. In America and Canada they manage to work together in harmony, and have toleration and forbearance for one another, which we have not yet learnt in England. I wish that such a spirit existed in this country. I am sorry to say that I see the effects of the enervating atmosphere of this country on the right rev. Prelate. And may I ask him, Is it to be expected that we can have that glorious, large, bright, generous atmosphere in this country if we do not attempt to adopt the same conditions that obtain in America and in Canada and in other places where the Church is disestablished? I ask, Can you expect to have such an atmosphere in this country except under the conditions of those countries which I have already quoted?
But, my Lords, dealing with the question before the House, I wish to say that this is an old question. I will not say it is an ancient question, but the grievance certainly is ancient. For centuries the Non-conformists have been in their present position. I am quite content to let bygones be bygones so far as that is concerned. But the grievance has left a little rankling. The right rev. Bishop who spoke to-day said we as Nonconformists have only lived since a century ago in Wales, but that is, of course, a great mistake, as anybody knows who knows what Nonconformity is. We have lived from 1638 in Wales, or something like that.
This question came to the front in 1816. We know that the people of Wales do not look with favour on the Establishment, from the fact that the Establishment have attempted for centuries to anglicise our country and to disestablish ourselves as a nation. However, we pass that by. But when this question came to the front in 1846 the leaders of public opinion in Wales were filled with indignation, and they determined no longer to take the peaceable attitude of the past, but to become active and aggressive, and indeed they earned the title then of "political Dissenters." Now what happened to them? The name of the denomination to which I belong was given, I believe, in derision. But I do not think we have any monopoly in regard to adopting a political attitude. From that time, my Lords, we woke up to the fact of our true position, and we were determined, if I may use the 1093 classic term which originated in Birmingham, that we Nonconformists "would not take it lying down." Nonconformists were determined, as citizens of the country, to assert their rights, and to take their part as members of the State, and take their legitimate part in shaping and guiding the political destinies of their country. In 1869 the Nonconformists of Wales returned two Members, to Parliament, and that was the first time in the history of the Legislature that Nonconformists were returned from Wales. They were returned in the person of Henry Richard and Richard Davis of Anglesey. Richard was not long in the House before he let them know what was the past of the democracy of Wales, and he brought out a list of evictions that had taken place in his country at elections. Large numbers of men were evicted from their holdings, and could not find any land, other than land across the seas, on which to live. That, however, was no loss to some of them, because they came back and bought the holdings from which they had been evicted.
Now, I do not propose to deal with this question on the ground that the Church of England in Wales has not been successful. That is not my point. For many years past I believe she has been successful—that is, as far as any Established Church could be. I do not know whether the right rev. Bishops will agree with me in what I say further, but I think I could date the time from which the awakening came and tell your Lordships when it commenced. I think it is true to say that it dates from the Disestablishment of the Irish Church. The Church in Wales then really awakened, and I am bound to say I have known cases in the part where I live where I believe the Church of England has been most successful in Wales. When the clergymen of these churches hold views and indulge in practices which, if I may say so, are known as extreme views and practices, I cannot be supposed to sympathise with them in regard to that; but I am bound to admire the way in which they carry out their duties and the wonderful sacrifices they make in order to do so, when I consider the conditions under which they exist. We are told to-night that in the City of Cardiff, a city of beyond 200,000 inhabitants, with 38 places of worship belonging to the Church in, Wales, the whole income they have from endowments does not amount to more than 1094 £3,500 a year. Well, I ask myself the question, If the Church of England succeeds with that small sum from endowments, would not she succeed best of all on none at all? That is only my opinion, but I think I am entitled to hold that opinion.
I had expected that when this question came before the Legislature and before public opinion it would have caused a good deal of opposition, but I am bound to say I did not expect that the antagonists of the measure would have gone the length they did go when they said that it would mean the curtailment of religious services in Wales, and that in some places the services would cease altogether. I am bound to ask what does that mean if it be so. It really amounts to the most damaging indictment that could be made against the Church of England there. I have greater faith in my Welsh fellow countrymen than to believe that. I believe that they would not allow for one moment Disestablishment and partial Disendowment of the Church to afford a ground for relaxing their efforts in the way of providing ministerial assistance in Wales. I have read a great deal of the effect of Disestablishment in other countries, and with regard to that I may say, seeing the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, sitting opposite, that I remember an incident occurring in a Committee of the House of Commons many years ago which I might mention. I remember that at that time the Committee had to consider the question of the incidence of tithes, and amongst the witnesses who were called before that Committee was a gentleman from Ireland called Mr. Hussey, a man who had been very severely boycotted and who was not one very anxious to talk on the other side. On that occasion I remember saying to Mr. Hussey, "I should like to put a question. I want to ask you whether Disestablishment of the Church in Ireland has been a blessing or otherwise." It was some time before he answered, and then he said it was a blessing. I said, "Will you tell me in what way?" and he said, "In the first place, it drove the drones outside." Well, I may say, we have no drones in Wales. He then said, "Now it is our Church, and we are prepared to make sacrifices for that Church," and he added, "Now we laymen have a word to say"; and then, warming up to his subject, he said, "There is not a man in all Ireland who opposed Disestablishment more than 1095 I did, but if Establishment were offered me to-night I should fight as hard against it." That is the opinion of only one individual, truly, but we have numbers of individuals of the opinion of Mr. Hussey; and when we think of the way that the Church has succeeded in Australia, and in Canada, and in the United States, and in Ireland, we think that our friends who take a desponding view of this matter may be somewhat comforted by these facts. I believe, my Lords, that there are numbers of those now outside the pale of the Church who will after Disestablishment become members of that body. We Nonconformists want to see all the forces of religion united, and may I say we have no quarrel with the Church of England as a spiritual institution. On the contrary, we wish it Godspeed. But we do object to its connection with the State, believing that the New Testament scriptures give a good rule as to that. We want to see the barriers that now divide the religious bodies of Wales into two camps removed, so that they can be united as one invincible band fighting the enemy of mankind.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, the noble Earl who introduced this Bill divided the question into three heads—Disestablishment, Disendowment, and Dismemberment; and I propose to follow him in that division of the subject. We have just listened to a speech from a noble Lord who was for many years a colleague of mine in the House of Commons. He and I have always sat on different sides of the House and taken a different and divergent view of this matter. I know that he is a true representative of the conscientious conviction that Establishment is not the right connection between Church and State. That is the view held by most, not by all but by most, Nonconformists and by many people who are not Nonconformists. On that I have only these observations to make. It seems to us extraordinary that the noble Lord and his friends should rate so low a national history of more than a thousand years. He knows, as I know, that connection between Church and State was never framed intentionally by man in England or in Wales. The two grew up together as parts of the national life naturally, and in the process of the centuries. Disestablishment may be good or bad, but it is a tremendous act of political surgery to sever the national life in two, the religious 1096 from the secular, when they have been intertwined ever since the nation existed. In the second place, it seems to us deplorable that this should be done, by some irony of fate, at the very moment that the conception of men of all Parties of the functions of the State in the life of its citizens is broadening and not narrowing; at the very moment when all of us agree that the State has a wider and more constant and more varied relation to the life of the individual men of whom the State is composed than our fathers thought fifty years ago was the fact.
I quite agree that if this Bill is passed there will be no national apostasy in Wales. The people of Wales will remain Christians, as they are now, according to their Church. But surely there will be a fundamental difference in the attitude of the State towards the Christian faith? The effect of Disestablishment is not to make the State neutral as between different Christian Churches only but as between all forms of religious belief. I do not know whether there are any weird beliefs from the West or the East that have penetrated into Wales, but if there be such they will have the same claim on the State as any form of Christian faith; and I do not see how logically, if this Bill becomes law, any such service could be held on the Investiture of a future Prince of Wales as was held the year before last in Wales by the participation of the members of all Christian Churches in it, for the reason that the State will be absolutely neutral, not between Church and Nonconformity, but between all Christian and other religions.
I pass from the question of Disestablishment, not because I do not feel strongly about it, but because it has been dealt with so adequately by the Bishop of St. Asaph and by other speakers. I wish to pass to the proposals for Disendowment. The noble Earl who introduced this Bill will forgive me for saying that he has got into a muddle with his figures, from which he cannot extricate himself with credit or advantage. I do not for one moment suggest that he came to this House intending to mislead the House by the figures he gave us, but I do say that he has gone to a suspect source for the figures he gave, and a source I think he will regret ever having drawn from. The point is so important, my Lords, that I must ask for your careful attention to this. The noble 1097 Earl begins by telling us that the total revenues of the Church in Wales are £260,000 a year, and he ends by telling us that all the Church would have to make good cut of that is £50,000 a year. That is to say, that £210,000 a year will be left to the Church in one form or another, and that to make up its present position it will have to raise £50,000 a year only.
In the first place, as the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London has pointed out, he arrives at that remarkable conclusion by crediting as a return to the Church £30,000 contingent on the action of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, which is not included in the sum of £260,000 which he states is the present income of the Church. If that £30,000 is to be added to the property which the Church receives back from its present endowments it must also be added to the total sum of those endowments, and therefore, to start with, the noble Earl's £50,000 passes into £80,000. But that is not all. He relies greatly on the £75,000 which is to accrue to the Church if the commutation scheme of the Government is accepted. Now, that, of course, is in respect of money included within the £260,000. My Lords, look at it a little more closely. If the Church does not accept the commutation scheme then that £75,000 cannot be reckoned, and you have to add £75,000 to the noble Earl's original £50,000 that has now become £80,000, which makes £155,000. But the result is not much different if the Church accepts the commutation, because if that commutation is accepted then the Commissioners will no longer be instructed to pay the present. incumbents their life endowments, and the payment will have to be made by the representative body. But that £75,000 will not be adequate to pay all the present salaries of the present incumbencies of benefices in Wales. Either that annual interest only will be used to pay those incumbents, in which case obviously another very large sum, say £75,000 or possibly more, will have to be found to make good the payment, or those incumbents will be paid their whole salary during their lifetime by drawing not only on the interest, that is on £75,000 a year, but on part of the capital sum handed over, and if that capital sum is drawn upon then it is quite clear that at the end of the period when all the existing incumbents have died there will not be £75,000 in interest left for the Church in Wales. 1098 Therefore whichever way you take it the figure of the noble Earl of £50,000 a year as the total sum the Church will have to raise bears absolutely no relation whatever to the real facts. The sum is £150,000 a year at least. That is the real measure of the disendowment of this poor and struggling Church.
Now I cannot quite pass by the noble Earl's excuse for giving no compensation to the curates. The mere fact that he thought it necessary to give an explanation showed a sense of injustice in his mind. He tells us the reason is that a similar provision was so much abused in the case of the Irish Church. I am not familiar with the facts, and I will assume without question that they are exactly as the noble Earl stated them. I quite admit that was an abuse. But he could have guarded against that abuse. All he had to do was to put into the Bill a provision to some such effect as this, that only the curates should have the advantage of the consideration who were holding office at the time the Bill was read a second time in the House of Commons, or the matter could have been met in half a dozen other ways. I think it is a poor and mean excuse for an act of injustice to the poorest of the ministers of the Church to tell us that a provision to the same effect was abused forty years ago in the case of Ireland.
But I thank the noble Earl for one thing, and I thank him sincerely. He did not favour us with any of that concocted history which the Home Secretary has revelled in. I am not going again to travel over the ground so excellently covered by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London, but I must remind your Lordships that a forged historical case was in the first instance made for this Bill by the Home Secretary. He had the effrontery to waive on one side all the great authorities of England, like Professor Freeman, Bishop Stubbs, and my father, men who had given years of their life and their training to elucidate these great problems, and the result of whose labours has stood for thirty years and never been questioned or upset. The Home Secretary I do not believe ever had looked at this subject or read a word about it till he had to bring in the Bill, and he came down and told us in the first place that the property of the Church was largely granted by Parliament, and, secondly, that it was given for a variety of causes and not only for the service of the Church. Lastly, 1099 I think he told us that tithes were the direct creation of the law. Now, my Lords, I only restate it so that all our countrymen may know how we stand to-day. It is beyond dispute that none of this property that is being taken from the Church in Wales ever belonged to the State, or was ever given by the State to the Church. It is beyond dispute that this property was given for no other purpose except for the service of the Church. And it is also beyond dispute that it has been used for these purposes, and for these purposes only, since the date it was given. To put the matter quite shortly, there is no other origin to the property of the Church in Wales to-day than the same origin of every endowment possessed by the Nonconformists of this country. The one and the other have been given by Christian folk for the service of the Church to which they belong.
Neither did the noble Earl deal with the question of prescription, to which the Bishop of London alluded. My noble friend Lord Pontypridd did touch upon that, but let me answer his appeal and put the case before your Lordships. In the middle of the last century an Act of Parliament was passed, with the consent of all Parties, which in short enacted this—that if a Nonconformist body had held its endowment without question for twenty-five years that property belonged to that body notwithstanding that it might have changed all its doctrines and its dogmas and had departed entirely from the original trust deed. Twenty-five years gives a certain prescription for every form of property to any Nonconformist body even though it has changed its doctrines. Now turn to the Church. My noble friend said that Nonconformists have got no tithe. But he will permit me to ask him, Is that really at all to the point? Tithe is simply a form of property. It does not differ in the slightest degree from any kind of property possessed by Nonconformists. The Bishop of London quoted the late Sir William Harcourt to that effect; but I would put the case in another way to the noble Lord. If tithe is in lay hands they can sell it just the same as Consols. It is simply a form of property. Therefore it is no answer by the noble Lord to say that Nonconformists possess no tithe.
I have stated what the law is with regard to Nonconformists. I will not go into those questions which separate some of us as to the identity of the doctrine of the Church 1100 of England to-day with the doctrine of the Church before the Reformation. I, of course, hold that there has been no break, and I do not think the noble Earl opposite would tell us that there had been a break in the historic continuity of the Church of England. But I will take the Government on their own ground. They have given us an arbitrary date—namely, 1662. Every endowment given to the Church after that date they admit to be so clearly the property of the Church that they do not propose to take it. Nobody suggests that the Church of England has in any degree altered its doctrines or its faith since 1662, that is 250 years. Twenty-five years is good enough prescription for any Nonconformist body with any change of faith; 250 years is not good enough for the Church of England when there has been not a change of any sort or kind—and that in the name of Justice !
We feel so deeply about this because we believe it to be unjust, and we know that the property which is being taken from our Church is devoted to the highest uses that property can be devoted to, and we say without exaggeration that it is going now to be put to a lower use. The noble Earl himself would admit that. I am quite sure he would admit that the use to which it is going to be put is a lower use than the use to which it is now put. He would say, no doubt, that there were in his opinion sufficient reasons for the change, but he would regret it and admit that the use was lower. I have said, my Lords, that I know that the views I hold on the subject of Disestablishment are different from those held by noble Lords opposite and by my Nonconformist fellow-countrymen. I know they are conscientious views that they hold. But I cannot say the same about this Disendowment scheme. Is any noble Lord going to get up in this House and say to the people of this country, who have strong feelings about Disendowment, that this Bill is popular, and that it has any real feeling behind it in the whole of England? No, my Lords, I am forced to say that the only driving force behind this proposal for Disendowment is sectarian malice. And why? We have got down in our argument, and we have been fortunate enough to get down, to the bed-rock of the matter. This Bill is going to be forced into law simply and only because of the votes of the Welsh Members. Now there was rather a striking passage in the speech of Earl Beauchamp in 1101 which he asked the most rev. Prelate the Archbishop of York to remember what he had said the other day in the Home Rule debate about Ulster. Surely that is a very double-edged weapon for the noble Earl to use. Just think what the proposition is to which he has committed himself. He recommends this Bill to your Lordships, this Bill for cutting the Church of England and Wales into two, a Church which has been one for 800 years, because the representatives of a very small section ask for it—the Welsh Members. That is to be sufficient ground for dismemberment of the Church of England—because the Welsh Members ask for it. Yet he tells us that the Ulster Members have no right, when it comes to forcing them into a partnership in Ireland which is new, to protest. Where is the consistency, my Lords, in the position of the noble Earl and of his colleagues? Either it is right to insist that Ulster should yield to the whole of Ireland, and in that case it is right that the Welsh Members should yield to the whole of the representatives of the Church of England; or, if the Welsh Members are entitled to overbear the opinion of the vast majority of the Church of England, then the same right in the political sphere of action belongs to the representatives of Ulster.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
No, I am talking, of course, of the North-East counties. I do not mean the whole of Ulster. I am glad to be corrected, because I think we do use the term "Ulster" rather loosely. I mean the North-East counties. Again, it is really very difficult to find the principle which is guiding the Government in this matter. The Church is to be disestablished in Wales because the Welsh Members ask for it. I understand that proposition. But in the Home Rule Bill the Irish Members are strictly forbidden to establish a Church if they wish to do so. Where is the principle in that? If this is a question which ought to be settled exclusively on national grounds why is the voice of the nation only to be heard when the question is Disestablishment? I confess that the only principle that I can find guiding the Government in this matter is the principle of payment for votes.
Now I pass to another aspect of the subject—namely, Dismemberment, on which the Bishop of St. Asaph spoke with such extreme eloquence to-night. 1102 I do not think the members of the Government understand how deeply we feel on this matter. Nor do I see why for their own policy this rigorous insistence on Dismemberment was necessary. Wiry they should not have allowed the corporate unity of the Church in its governing bodies to continue I do not understand. If this Dismemberment is a logical consequence of Disestablishment, it is not essential, and it is certainly not necessary, for Disendowment. The noble Earl spoke with no great sense of conviction. He spoke of a lingering sense of subjugation in Wales that had come from the compulsory connection of the poor Welsh dioceses with the rest of the Church of England. Is there really any advantage in making historical speculations of that kind when he knows, first of all, that there is not a single Churchman in Wales of whom one has ever heard who desires to sever the connection of those four Welsh dioceses from the rest of the Church of England, and when he himself has been reminded to-night of what he know no doubt before, that this very question has been recently considered by the Free Church Council of Wales, and this idea of severing the government of Welsh Nonconformist Churches from their colleagues in England has been definitely repudiated as bad for Wales. What is bad for Welsh Nonconformist bodies in the matter of Church government is bad for the Church, and surely it is a most tyrannous and arbitrary use of power to force asunder, by an Act of Parliament, a religious body that never was united by an Act of Parliament, and that in face of all experience, in fact of remonstrance, and without necessity. I believe it is one of the cardinal principles of the Liberal Party that the State should never create a Church; but if ever there was a Church created by Act of Parliament is will be this Welsh Church, if this Bill ever becomes law.
My Lords, I would ask, Who is going to benefit by this Bill when it becomes law? That question has been asked over and over again. It has never yet received an answer. Do noble Lords opposite, does the Government, believe that this Bill is really approved of by the people of England? I do not doubt they think it is approved of by the majority of the people in Wales. I do not hold their view, but I feel no doubt that that is their real belief, though I do not think they believe that this Bill is approved of by the people of England; and I ask, What right have they 1103 to pass this Bill under the Parliament Act when they give the people of England, who are just as much interested in this matter as the people of Wales—because Wales and England are one Church, just as Wales and England are one nation (two sub-nations, I admit, but a greater nation and a greater Church over all)—no opportunity of deciding on the question? The noble Earl actually had the courage—I think it was great courage—to commence his speech by claiming that the Government had a mandate to deal with this question, and he based his assertion that they had a mandate on the warnings that had been uttered prior to the General Election by the Bishop of St. Asaph and the Bishop of St. Davids. It reminds me very much of the mandate for Home Rule which, as far as I remember, rests entirely on the speeches of Lord Lansdowne. This doctrine carries us very far. At this rate after the next General Election the Conservative Party will certainly have a mandate for Food Taxes, because we shall be able to point to every speech made by the noble Earl and his colleagues as showing that the country were warned that if we came into power the principle of Food Taxes would be admitted.
It really is too much for the noble Earl to ask us to pass over in silence his statement that his Party had a mandate to deal with this matter because of the warnings uttered by the Welsh Bishops. In how many constituencies of how many candidates on his side was this question mentioned? In how many speeches was it dealt with? I say without any hestitation that true as it is that the details of the Home Rule Bill lately before Parliament were not apprehended in advance by the people of this country, it is still far truer to say that they had no idea when they voted for the return of the present Government to power that the question of the Establishment and Endowment of the Church of England in Wales was going to be touched. The noble Earl asked us what we were afraid of. He said the voluntary system has in no country failed—of what were we afraid? I would reply to the noble Earl that in no country has the voluntary system succeeded as well as the system of the Church of England. In no country has either the Anglican Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Wesleyan Church or the Roman Catholic Church in the new countries of the world that he knows and that I know been able to cover 1104 the ground by the voluntary system so well as the Church of England does in Wales by her endowments. In not one of them is there a system by which every human being can be sure of spiritual ministrations within reach at any moment, and it cannot be so under the voluntary system. I do not say that the voluntary system may not pass in the lapse of ages into a second endowment, but that can be no argument for the noble Earl. What he claimed was that the voluntary system had not failed to work well and do well in England or in the Anglican Church in Australia or South Africa. I know, as he does, that the work is done under great difficulties, and we know that splendid efforts are made to do it. But nowhere, I imagine, is the success so complete as it is now under the endowment system of the Church of England. Therefore it is no comfort to be told by him that the voluntary system does succeed sometimes and in some places.
What we feel is that the endowments which our fathers gave for the service of God, and only for that service, are being taken away without just cause to be used for the baser service of the State. We know that the life of the Church cannot be permanently injured—that it is not in the power of any Government to do that. We know that the noble Earl would not wish to do that for one single moment, though he has friends and political allies who would not be sorry to do the Church much injury. What we feel is that for a time unknown to us, and just when the work of the Church is most required to cope with the growing indifference to religion in the nation, just when the curse of materialism is glooming over the land, just at that moment the work of the Bishops and clergy is going to be largely turned from the cure of souls to the serving of tables, and that much of the strength that is required for the spiritual life of the people will have to be put into organisation and into financial work. We say that is a terrible result of a wholly unnecessary and unjust Bill. We feel this, my Lords—we feel this to be an unutterable wrong. We deny the moral validity of what is done under the Parliament Act, and we do not feel ourselves bound in any way to respect any law that is passed under those circumstances.
The further debate adjourned till Tomorrow.