§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (EARL BEAUCHAMP)
My Lords, this being the same Bill as that which was before your Lordships' House a very short time ago, I shall not detain you with a speech in moving that the Bill be read a second time to-day, but shall venture to postpone until later my remarks upon the subject. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Earl Beauchamp.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY rose to move the following Amendment—
§ That this House declines to proceed with the consideration of the Bill until it has been submitted to the judgment of the country.
§ The noble Marquess said: My Lords, the noble Earl has not added to the remarks which he made upon the last occasion when this Bill was before your Lordships' House. I am sure he will forgive me when I say that in the speech which he then delivered he failed to convince your Lordships—I think he failed to convince himself—of the righteousness of the Bill for which he was making himself responsible, and he has thought it best not to attempt to put that impression right upon the present occasion. I was aware, of course, that the noble Earl was going to take this course, and therefore I have tried to think what line the noble Earl would have taken had he made a speech on the present occasion. I think that probably his argument is to be found in a passage in the speech which he made upon the Home Rule Bill a few days ago, when he said that the Parliament Act was not passed for its own sake but in order that it might be the means of carrying the Home Rule Bill and the Bill which is at present under your Lordships' consideration; so that in the noble Earl's opinion, if I do not misinterpret that observation of his, the argument was concluded when the electors of this country returned the Radical Party to power in December, 1910, to pass the Parliament Act. That carried with it, as it were, in its embrace, not merely the Parliament Act itself, but these two great 1116 Bills. If that be the argument, I submit to your Lordships with some confidence that it is not justified. It is, I think, in the highest degree grotesque to contend that when the people of this country decided, if they did decide, to carry the Parliament Bill, as it then was, into law, they ipso facto and at the same time necessarily intended that the Home Rule Bill and the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, with all the provisions which they contain, should become part of the law of this country.
§ I ask your Lordships to carry your minds back for a moment to that great crisis in the constitutional history of this country—the General Election of December, 1910. Will any noble Lord sitting in any part of this House, any of your Lordships opposite, rise in your place and contend that the Welsh Disestablishment Bill was really prominently before the electors in December, 1910? What was before the country in December, 1910? There was the "People's Budget"; there was the action which your Lordships' House had taken the year before in respect to that Budget; and there was an alternative policy, the policy which is known by the name of Tariff Reform. I am not going to discuss either the People's Budget or Tariff Reform on the present occasion; but if I were to ask any of your Lordships sitting opposite, any of the members of the Government, what they believed to be—I am not endorsing it, but what they believed to be—the most unpopular part of the Unionist creed before the country at that time, what would they reply? I venture to say that they would all agree that the most unpopular part of the Unionist programme at that time was the proposed tax upon food. [A noble LORD: Hear, hear.] One noble Lord is kind enough and candid enough to acknowledge that fact. I ask, Supposing there had been no proposal for a tax upon food in the minds of the electors in December, 1910, would noble Lords opposite have felt confident that they would have been returned to power? I do not believe there is a single candid Liberal who would say with any confidence that if there had been no proposal for a tax on food before the country in December, 1910, there would have been any kind of guarantee that the Liberal Party would have been returned to power. Every one of them would admit that the result would have 1117 been very doubtful, and I believe the majority would say that but for the proposed tax on food we on this side of the House would have been returned. If that is so, what becomes of the sanction of the country in December, 1910, to the Welsh Disestablishment Bill? Why, because the proposed food tax was unpopular, should the Welsh Church be disestablished and disendowed? Any kind of mandate which can be claimed in such circumstances as that is perfectly worthless.
§ It was not only the question of food taxation. Another subject which undoubtedly ministered to the unpopularity of the Unionist Party at that election—I candidly admit it—was the extreme form of the hereditary principle as it is known in your Lordships' House. That was not popular. But is the fact that the hereditary principle in your Lordships' House is not popular any reason for disestablishing and disendowing the Church in Wales? I am trying to look at it, your Lordships will observe, as far as I can through the spectacles of noble Lords opposite. Another matter which undoubtedly acted against us was that a large number of people, I will not say in this case a majority, in the controversy at that time between the Commons and the Lords, apart even from the question of the hereditary principle, were, according to the democratic faith of the time in which they live, more inclined to back up the Commons against the Lords. Those subjects, subjects of very great importance, of profound and far-reaching importance, were the matters which really governed that election. I defy anybody to deny it. There was no question whatever that the hereditary principle, the struggle between the Lords and the Commons, and, above all, the unpopularity of certain parts of Tariff Reform, were the things above all others which determined the General Election of December, 1910.
§ To interpret the decision of the people at that time as necessarily, or even probably, in favour of the Bill which is now before your Lordships seems to me in the highest degree grotesque. Whatever the people decided in December, 1910, depend upon it they did not decide that the power of determining what should be the laws of the country should be taken out of their own hands. That they certainly did not determine. They may not have had a 1118 very clear view of exactly how that was to work out, but depend upon it they intended then, as they intend now, that the last word upon all this kind of legislation, all this important capital legislation, should rest with the people themselves. Again, were the people, even if their attention had been drawn to it, in a position to arrive at a conclusion as to this Bill in December, 1910? Why, the matter had not been argued out in the country for years. I do not mean to say that the subject had not been mentioned in Parliament later, but the last time that Welsh Disestablishment was thoroughly argued out in Parliament and in the country was in 1895. Since then, beyond certain references to it in public and perhaps an abortive legislative project or two, nothing has really been heard of the subject. Nothing in the nature of detailed discussion and criticism of Welsh Disestablishment and Disendowment has taken place before the electors of this country.
§ What is our duty towards the people in a matter of this kind? I venture to say that it is not to gain an advantage over their ignorance, not upon some technicality of a decision at a General Election to force upon them conclusions which they themselves are really not prepared to adopt. We must help the people to come to their decision, not hustle them. We must do our very utmost, before we assume that they have determined a thing, fairly to lay the issues before them in all their details—the origins of the question, the conclusions which ought to be drawn from those origins, the evidence of the present time, and all the arguments that can be brought to bear on one side or the other. That could not have been done until the Welsh Disestablishment Bill was produced. Is it at all a strange claim that before the people should be asked to decide in favour of a great policy such as this they should see the actual provisions of the Bill which it is proposed should carry that policy into effect? Even Parliament itself, which is, after all, a much more expert body than the electors, does not form any conclusion as to the principle of a Bill until it has seen all its provisions set out in the form of a Bill. You cannot expect the country to do better than Parliament. You cannot expect the electors to understand the full bearing of the principle of 1119 the Bill until they have seen before them the provisions by which it is proposed to carry that principle out. I hear the noble Viscount the Lord President of the Council say that the precedent of the Irish Church Bill is against me. He knows, of course, the history of the Irish Church Bill far better than I do; but unless I am very much mistaken the Resolutions on which the Irish Church Bill was founded were discussed in the greatest detail before the country was asked to decide. But nothing of the kind has been done in the case of the Welsh Church.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (VISCOUNT MORLEY)
They were not discussed in great detail. All the questions which afterwards caused so much trouble—endowment and all those questions—came later. The real details of the Bill came afterwards.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My noble friend who sits beside me (Viscount St. Aldwyn) and who remembers the Bill equally with the noble Viscount opposite, tells me that there were very long discussions. My noble friend, indeed, was in Parliament at that time, and I believe the country had not the great advantage of the noble Viscount's presence in Parliament as early as that. But my argument does not depend on precedent. It stands to reason that until the matter has been laid before the country in detail, until the case has been argued, the electors are not in a position to come to a conclusion. It is no good having the verdict first and the trial afterwards. That is the most absurd arrangement you could possibly conceive; and if the people are to decide, the people can only decide genuinely if the case has been argued before them. Indeed, I think the Prime Minister himself contemplated this in one of the speeches which he delivered in the course of the discussions on the Parliament Act, for he said that one of the advantages of the procedure of that Act was that the public discussion of a Bill would be a safeguard, because if public opinion did not approve of the Bill the people would have ample opportunity of showing their disapproval while the Bill was passing. Yes, my Lords, they may have the power of showing their disapproval, but they have not the power to record their disapproval at the polls. They have, I believe, formed very 1120 definitely adverse views of this Bill, but they are not able to make those adverse views effective.
I should like to call your Lordships' attention to one or two points—I do not pretend that what I shall say will be exhaustive—which have emerged in the controversy as it has been conducted in Parliament and in the country since this Bill was first introduced, and which I believe the electors had not in the least degree appreciated when they returned noble Lords opposite to power in December, 1910. I think that average public opinion looked upon the Welsh Church as a self-contained Church which might be dealt with by itself without ulterior considerations. What has emerged in this controversy is that, so far from being a self-contained Church, the Welsh Church is an integral part of the Canterbury Province of the Church of England; that it is inextricably interwoven with the structure of that Church; and that it cannot be divided from it without dismembering the Church of England. I do not think that in their speeches noble Lords opposite ever seem to feel the full force of that argument. They do not seem to think that Churchmen in Wales have an absolute claim upon the protection which they gain from being integral members, not only in the eye of God but in the eye of the law, of the whole Church of England in this kingdom. They do not seem to appreciate that every individual Churchman has that claim. And yet in the political sphere, as opposed to the ecclesiastical sphere, they are very ready to acknowledge it. When we are discussing Home Rule they always allege that it is part of their case that in granting self-government to Ireland the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament should be maintained. I think, as a matter of fact, they singularly fail to effect that object in their Bill, but they claim it. They claim that it is an essential part of their proposal—that is to say, they admit that every Irishman, whatever may happen to his country, has a right to the protection of the larger unit of the United Kingdom, an absolute right to that which they think it part of their duty to secure to him. But they do not seem to see that the same argument applies in the ecclesiastical sphere to the Welsh Churchman. He in a similar way has an absolute claim to the legal protection and legal advantages 1121 which he possesses by being part of the larger organisation of the Church of England, as it is contained not only in Wales itself but in England and Wales taken together. Looked at from another point of view, the interdependence of the Welsh Church and the English Church, everybody knows that there are a large number of the supporters of noble Lords opposite who are looking to Welsh Disestablishment as the pathway to the Disestablishment of the Church of England as a whole. The noble Earl opposite has not honoured us with a speech as yet this evening, but last year—I am not quite sure where, but I think somewhere in Hampshire—he used a phrase on this point which has been quoted a good many times. I will not quote it to-night if the noble Earl denies it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble Earl, who is always courageous, said on the occasion to which I refer that he would not be afraid of saying that the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales was only the first step towards the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in England. So that the noble Earl himself admits, in terms, the interdependence of the two subjects. The Church in Wales does not stand alone. The fact of the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Wales will be, as the noble Earl admits, a strong argument in his armoury for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in England; and therefore Churchmen in England, whether they be Conservatives or Liberals, have to look at this subject not merely from the Welsh point of view but from the point of view of the Church of England as a whole.
Let me take another matter which I think has emerged in the present controversy which I am sure was not appreciated by the electors in 1910. They had the general view that the Church was only one of many denominations in Wales covering the same ground as the other denominations, only with unfair advantages in the competition. But that is not the case. It appears, after the controversy, that there are many parts of Wales where there is no Nonconformist provision whatever. There are many 1122 parishes in the diocese of St. Asaph and many parishes in the diocese of St. Davids, a large number altogether, in which, if the Church in Wales were obliterated by a stroke of the pen to-morrow, there would be no minister or any kind or sort to give religious ministrations to the unfortunate people there. Is that a reason for Disestablishing and Disendowing the Church in Wales? Do you mean to tell me that the people of England really realised that such was the case, that it was the only religious body in some parts of Wales, when this alleged mandate was given to noble Lords opposite to destroy the Church?
I take another point. I do not believe that the people of this country had the least notion how poor the Church in Wales is when they were asked, if they were asked, to sanction its Disendowment. I take the average of livings in Wales under £200 a year, if you may use such a word as "livings" for so meagre a reward for their labours. Sixty per cent. of the livings in Wales are under £200 a year. That gives some idea of the poverty of the land; and that argument, of course, is confirmed by the fact, which I laid before your Lordships when I last had the opportunity of addressing you on this subject, that in their grants to poor parishes throughout the country the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have found it necessary to apply proportionately a far larger sum to Wales. All these things show how poor the Church in Wales is, and that it is not a bloated rich Establishment which you are attacking but a poor struggling Church doing its utmost for the welfare of the people. That is another of the facts which I am sure were not before the electors at the last election.
Take one more point, the title of the Church of England in Wales to its endowments. Of course, there is no difference in this respect between the Church of England in Wales and the Church of England in England. I think the sort of idea which was sought to be conveyed to the public as to the title to these endowments was that the endowments of the Church in Wales did not really belong to the Church; that they had no just title to them at all. What has appeared from these discussions? Why, that the title to the endowments of the Church in Wales is at least as good as the title 1123 to his property, not only of any one of your Lordships, but of any landowner throughout the country. It is perfectly clear that their title has been undisputed at any rate for 300 years, and if that is not enough to give a good title I really do not know what is. The whole idea which is sought to be established by certain Nonconformist speakers, that endowments are by themselves bad—bad for the Church which possesses them, bad for the ministrations of that Church—is entirely vitiated by the fact which has now come to light, that the Nonconformist bodies themselves have endowments, and wish they had more. The whole of the argument that endowments were soul-destroying things disappears at once when we find that the preachers of that doctrine themselves have endowments and are doing their utmost to increase them by every means in their power—nay more, when they publish abroad to their adherents the great difficulties under which they labour because their endowments have not been increased, and make demands upon their friends to do their best to set that deficiency right. These are other arguments which I am quite certain were not present to the electors in December, 1910.
But now, following the same line of argument, let me say a word or two more particularly about Establishment. The idea sought to be established in the argument of noble Lords opposite and Nonconformist speakers throughout the country is that the Church of England everywhere, but for the purposes of this Bill especially in Wales, has privileges which cannot be defended. I ask your Lordships, What do those privileges consist of? Do they consist, for example, in the special laws under which the Church of England is governed? I do not think people who use that argument reflect that it is by no means unprecedented in this country that organisations of great importance should have special laws. This is not a privilege belonging to the Church of England particularly. There are a great many organisations of the first rank which have special laws attached to them and which are governed under special Acts of Parliament, with special obligations, special means of revenue, and so on. Take, for example, the great railway systems in this country. They are all governed under special laws. Take 1124 the friendly societies. They are all governed under special laws. Take especially trade unions. We all know—for it has been matter of acute controversy lately—the special laws under which trade unions are governed. Considering the enormous importance of the Church of England, the extent of its adherents, its wealth, if you like, it is not the less defensible that it should have special laws. That is what we should have expected even if there were no historic growth of the Establishment before us.
Well, has the Church of England special advantages? Certainly there are some. But, as I have already shown, special advantages under the law are not confined to the Church of England; nor is the Church of England the only religious body which has special advantages. Every Nonconformist body in this country has special advantages before the law. That is to say, there are privileges granted to it because it is a religious body and for no other reason. I should not presume to weary your Lordships by repeating observations which I have already made in this House on this subject, but I may refer to the point quite generally and say that in numerous directions all religious bodies in this country have special privileges by law which they possess because they are religious bodies and for no other reason. Therefore the privileges possessed by the Church of England cannot be, in principle, privileges to which any objection can be urged. And if the Church of England has advantages, it also has certain disadvantages. That is a matter, I know, which appeals very closely to the right rev. Prelate who presides over the diocese of Oxford. He feels so acutely what I believe he regards as the fetters of the Church of England that he would rather lose all the advantages of endowment and of the Establishment of the Church of England if he could get rid of these so-called fetters. Well, my Lords, I am not concerned to deny that there ought to be more freedom of self-government in the Church of England. I should like to see it carried out, and I believe it can be carried out. I believe, my Lords, that if by the assistance of Parliament and the electors of this country we are successful in preventing Disestablishment and Disendowment, which I certainly hope may be the case, we shall gain those increased powers of self- 1125 government in the Church of England which we ought to possess. But although I say that, I would not like to carry it too far. Even if there had been no historic Establishment of the Church of England, a body so important, with such enormous influence for good or for evil upon the people of this country, ought not to be entirely independent of the State; and certain limitations on the powers of the Church of England ought to have been established by Parliament even if they had not already been there.
I return to my question, Where lies the evil principle of Establishment to which noble Lords opposite object? If it is the fact that there are certain advantages which the Church of England possesses which Nonconformist bodies do not possess, then I should be very glad if we could diminish that inequality. People seem to think that the only way of obtaining equality is by levelling down, but I would urge upon your Lordships that there is another method—namely, by levelling up, and I would like to see in many respects more so-called privileges given to the Nonconformist bodies in this country. I have already shown to your Lordships on another occasion that that process has already proceeded a long way, but we might carry it a great deal further. It is said, for example, that the presence of the Bishops on the Episcopal Bench in your Lordships' House is in itself an advantage not possessed by the Nonconformist body. I say, quite frankly, that I should be delighted to see the heads of the great Nonconformist body sitting in your Lordships' House or in any House which may take its place, and I believe that to be the view of every thinking man among Churchmen throughout the length and breadth of the country. We have no desire for these exclusive privileges. If that is the point of Establishment which is so offensive to the Liberal Party, by all means diminish those privileges, not by destroying them altogether but by granting them to other people.
Is there any other respect in which Establishment is really offensive to the Nonconformist body and to noble Lords opposite? Does it, perchance, lie in the word "National" and in all that that word implies? Is it, in fact, that what really is most distasteful to the Welsh Nonconformists is that the Church in 1126 Wales should be called the National Church? It may be so. If it were only a word and only a name, for my part I almost should wish to get rid of it; but, my Lords, although one hesitates for a moment to think that so much should hang upon a name, yet I cannot but feel that there is something in the word "National" as attached to religion in this country which is so valuable that I could not willingly forego the name. What is, in fact, implied in the existence of a National Church? It means that the State is conducted upon a religious basis. It means that there is not that sharp division in our country between things secular and things religious. It means that we recognise that a man consists of two things, not only his body but also his spirit, and that the Government must have to do with both great elements of a human being. Many of us look forward in the hope that in the dim and distant future there may be a time when all Christian bodies may be reunited. I do not wish to be misunderstood, my Lords. I do not wish to minimise for a moment the great differences which divide us at the present day, but still none of us can be blind to the fact that there is a movement on foot towards drawing together the severed fragments of the Church wherever they may be; and at such a moment to pronounce, in the year 1913, that the State is no longer religious, that the State has become a purely secular State, is a conclusion from which I believe all religious men ought to shrink.
My Lords, these are the considerations on Endowment and on Establishment which were not laid before the country in December, 1910. No one will pretend that these things were before our fellow-countrymen when they returned the present Government to power. Some of them they have already learnt; some of them they are engaged in learning; and what is the result? Why, everybody knows that this Bill is profoundly unpopular in the country. Is any noble Lord sitting on the Front Bench opposite, any noble Lord sitting on the Liberal Benches anywhere, prepared to get up in his place and say that this is a popular Bill? The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack is, I believe, going to speak immediately after I sit down. I challenge him to say that this Bill is a popular Bill. I challenge him upon his democratic faith. I ask him as 1127 an honest man, believing, as he does, that the will of the people ought to prevail, whether he believes in his heart that this Bill is approved by the people; and if he cannot say that, what right has he, as a Liberal and as a Radical, to ask Parliament to pass this Bill? My Lords, we believe that this Bill has been argued before the country and has been found to be a bad Bill. We believe that the people are against it, and we ask your Lordships' House to reject it on the present occasion.
I have only one word more to say, and that is as to the form of the Amendment which I am about to submit as an alternative to the Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill. Your Lordships will have observed that the form of the Amendment is precisely similar to that of the Amendment which was moved to the Home Rule Bill a few days ago by my noble friend who leads the Opposition. We ask that this Bill shall not be passed until it has been submitted to the country. But it has occurred to many people—I have seen it noticed in the Liberal Press—that there is a difficulty in applying the same remedy to two Bills. How can we, it is asked, submit two Bills at the same time to the country? I admit that there is a certain ambiguity. But in the first place I would reply that if the Government take exception to my Amendment upon that ground it is open to them to withdraw one of the Bills. Let them withdraw the Home Rule Bill and let the country pronounce on the Welsh Disestablishment Bill. I do not think they will do that. Let them withdraw the Welsh Disestablishment Bill and leave the country to pronounce about Home Rule. I do not even think they will do that. If they will not adopt that course, then I am able to say, on behalf of my noble friend behind me that we are quite prepared to adopt the method of the referendum if they prefer that to the other. By means of the referendum no such difficulty would arise. But, my Lords, if the Government are prepared neither to withdraw one of their Bills nor to adopt the plan of the referendum, then at any rate we claim that these fundamental Bills, going down to the very root of our polity, shall not pass without an appeal to the country, and, if there be an appeal to the country, by the result of that appeal we are prepared to abide. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.
To leave out all the words after ("That") for the purpose of inserting the following Resolution, viz., ("this House declines to proceed with the consideration of the Bill until it has been submitted to the judgment of the country").—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, the noble Marquess challenged me to answer the question whether I could affirm that this Bill was a popular Bill, and earlier in his speech he raised the question whether it was a righteous Bill. I am profoundly convinced that this Bill is a righteous Bill, and I believe it to be a popular Bill—popular in the sense that all those who have given their minds to the side of the case which I am now going to present to your Lordships are convinced of its truth. The noble Marquess spoke in tones which were characterised by great sincerity. No one can doubt that he is a loyal and devoted son of the Church; no one can doubt the reality of his accents. But, my Lords, the very earnestness of the noble Marquess prevents him from seeing the tremendous case on the other side which he ignores and leads him to take an altogether one-sided view of this controversy. It is quite true that this Bill proposes to disestablish and also to disendow the Church in Wales. That is always a painful process. It is always a process which one would avoid if one possibly could.
Here we have the spectacle of a part of the Church in a part of the country which belongs for Church purposes to the Province of Canterbury, and it is proposed to make a separation. And why? Because a great current of idealism, which took its origin a century since and has continued to flow with ever-increasing volume, has separated the people of Wales from the Church which ought to be theirs; and because there is only one way of bringing together the currents in that country of spiritual and national life, and that is by the reform which this Bill proposes. That is the counter-case. That is the case which I shall try to make good in what I have to say, and that is the case which the noble Marquess and many who have spoken on this subject have ignored. I do not doubt that there has been great growth in the life of the Church in Wales. I do not doubt that the efforts, the notable efforts, which have been made by the 1129 right rev. Prelates who represent its Church in this House have been attended with much good. These efforts are worthy of all praise, and one could have wished that they had come at a time when they could have borne results larger proportionately to the results obtained in the rest of Wales. But they come too late. They come half a century after the time at which they might have borne some fruit. The result is that it is now no question of divorcing the Church from the people of Wales, because the divorce has long since taken place, and it is a question now of bridging the gulf which exists between them.
The noble Marquess asks whether the broad controversy, the question which I have endeavoured to define, is one which has been adequately before the country for the country to pronounce on. He said it is a question of great gravity. I admit that it is. It is a great and far-reaching change that we are seeking to bring about. But, my Lords, it is a question which has been discussed with ever-increasing frequency for a quarter of a century. It was before Parliament in the fullest sense in 1895. It has been the subject of repeated Motions in the House of Commons, and to-day we are in this position, that quite lately an affirmative answer to the question whether this Bill should pass has been given by a very large majority in the other House. Then the noble Marquess seemed to suggest that this was a question rather to be dealt with by those who were concerned, and that those concerned were the people of England, of whom the people of Wales for this purpose formed only a part. Is that really an argument which needs to be more than stated in order to be confuted? What is our Constitution as regards the Church and its Establishment? It has always been the essence of our Constitution that freedom to mould the organisation of the Church should be conceded to every separable part of the country. Had we not had that freedom in Scotland we should have done badly. It is some two or three centuries since we broke away from Episcopacy, and it is that one right by which we regulate our Church affairs. Again, in Ireland it was only in 1869 that the great change was made which severed the Church in Ireland from the Church in England. That change was made with the assent of your Lordships upon the principle that 1130 when a people had earnestly and unmistakably declared that it wished to enjoy that freedom and autonomy it was entitled to demand it and to receive it. Over whatever questions as to Home Rule there may have been controversy, there is no question in this country about the right of autonomy in spiritual matters.
When one comes to the case of Wales, what is the actual concrete case? Wales consists of a people strongly marked out, localised, differing in many material respects from ourselves, differing in descent and temperament, lacking, perhaps, in some qualities which we possess, but endowed with others which we fail to enjoy, a people marked out as a distinct people in just those qualities which most hear upon spiritual organisation; and they, through their representatives, by a majority which for long has been somewhere about ten to one, have been persistently and without break demanding that they should be allowed to regulate their spiritual affairs in their own fashion and should not be held to the proposition that their National Church must continue to be a Church which does not represent the majority in any sense or shape. One would have thought, if the principle of the noble Marquess had been applied, that it would have been, not that the people of England and the people of Wales together should have decided this question apart from the people of Scotland and Ireland, but that the people of Wales should have decided it alone. If so, what answer would he have been likely to get?
After all, what is it that has made this separation in the standpoint of the great majority of the people of the 'Welsh Principality from the standpoint which obtains in England? Great divisions of view arising from temperament, yes, and from more than temperament—from history. It is worth while looking for a moment at what the real controversy is. What is the essence of the Church of England? I for one have never challenged the view which I know is strongly held, and I think justly held, that through the life of the Church of England, under whatever form, even when its government was a government directed by the See of St. Peter, there has been a certain continuity which comes down to this time. But, possibly because of the peculiar genius of our Constitution, that con- 1131 tinuity is a continuity which has been maintained under the control, and at times under the hard grip, of the State.
If you go back to the earliest times you find the King and Parliament of this country insisting upon their right to control the Church. Even when the authority of the Bishop of Rome was practically unchallenged, that right was set up. It is no new doctrine, this doctrine of the interference of the State in the affairs of the Church. I turned up the other day the Statute of Provisors which was passed at that notable Parliament at Carlisle which took place in the time of Edward III, and I found this very striking Preamble, striking as showing that even so far back as that time the title of the State to control and interfere in the affairs of the Church was strongly asserted—Whereas the Church of England was founded by the King and his progenitors and the Earls, Barons, and other nobles of the Realm to inform them and the people of the law of God and to make hospitalities, alms, and other works of charity in the places where her churches were founded.Mark that!And then the Statute goes on to say that the Pope shall not interfere in the appointments to benefices. It was at an early stage of the Church's history that that declaration of what many conscientious people regard as the principle of Erastus came in. I have always thought Erastus a somewhat over-abused person. He was an eminent statesman, and a divine also. He filled several rôles in life, and he asserted the principle that the Church should not be allowed to insist on the right of exclusive control in matters which might give rise to persecution. He set up his doctrine in a form which caused great controversy. One large section of the people have denounced him ever since, and another large body have embraced, perhaps unconsciously, the doctrine and the principles of Erastus, and I think the people of Wales stick tight to his principles. People speak about setting the Church free from that restraint, but have they considered what an enormous task they would have to accomplish before the Church could in any degree correspond with the standard set up in Wales?
How does the Church stand to-day? In the time of the Tudors the doctrine of controlling the power of the Church was asserted with great force, and the power of 1132 the Crown to nominate to the highest places in the Church was asserted with a vehemence which survives even to this day. It is not many years ago since it was my duty to argue before the Court of Queen's Bench the question whether a mandamus could issue to direct the most rev. Primate to hear objections which were raised by some objectors to a distinguished individual—a now highly-honoured member of the Episcopal Bench of this House—who had been nominated to the benefice of Worcester at that time. The service for the confirmation and consecration of a Bishop is a most beautiful and impressive one, and it looks, as the language is interpreted, as if the most rev. Primate had a duty to take notice of the objections and see if there was anything in them before proceeding to the duty of confirmation and consecration. But that was not the view taken by Parliament or by the Courts of Law. It was decided, as it had been decided before in Bishop Hampden's case, that the most rev. Primate, notwithstanding these solemn and sacred words, was the mere agent of the Crown, just as the dean and chapter, who had received a polite letter of congé d'elire requesting them to make an election of a Bishop to be proposed, would have been liable to terrible pains and penalties if they had refused to accede to the invitation. So the most rev. Primate himself was the mere hand of the Crown and of Parliament in giving effect to the nomination which the Crown had made. That is a curious example of the apparent freedom and yet rigid forms which run through the whole organisation of the Church of England. You have it again in the Articles of Religion, settled under the direction of the Crown; you have it in the Prayer Book, prescribed by Statute; you had it when the Act of Uniformity was passed in 1662, when the Church was put under a most rigid set of rules which drove out some of her best ministers.
My Lords, I am not complaining of the organisation of the Church of England. It has grown up as it has grown up. It may be that it suits best the genius of our people. I do not know what another party in the Church would say if the counsels of the noble Marquess were listened to. He may be right in saying that a time of greater freedom is in front of us. I share his desire that these controversies, many of them absurd, which arise out of strict regulations should die away, and that the people of the Church should have greater freedom. 1133 But a tremendously long road has to be travelled before that goal is reached. Is it, then, to be wondered that the people of Wales should have taken the strongest exception to remaining as they are?
I come now to the case of Welsh idealism. Under the Act of Uniformity of 1662 some of the best of the clergymen in Wales were those who suffered most severely. They were men who desired to remain in the Church, but they were unable to conform to everything which the Act of Uniformity imposed upon them, a nil therefore they were after a time driven forth. By degrees there arose around them a band of people who increased more and more as time went on, and who formed the foundation of that organisation of spiritual life in Wales which, assisted by no Act of Parliament, dependent on no State endowments, is yet a power by the side of which the Church in Wales to-day appears as but small. With that revolution of 1662, the time began when the Church of England in Wales ceased to be the National Church in the widest sense, and became the Church of only a part of the nation. That was the beginning of a great change in Wales. There grew up a generation of men who still clung to the Church of England, who clung to it down to the middle of the eighteenth century, and who wished to work within it, but their task was an impossible one. The Church in those days was a dead Church; it held them down with an iron hand, and the result was that after the middle of the eighteenth century there set in a new tendency altogether. Men began to look for new methods. There were those who sought to raise, intellectually and morally as well as spiritually, the life of the people among whom they lived, and they found that they could not do that within the Church. They came forth, and there arose a baud of names familiar to the people of Wales, although perhaps not so familiar, unfortunately, outside. I dare say many of your Lordships have never heard them—Howell Harris, Daniel Rowlands, and Thomas Charles. The right rev. Prelates who represent the Welsh dioceses must know them well. They are the names of men who set on foot a great movement, and devoted their lives to furthering it—a movement which was to entirely change the Church life of the Welsh people. One has to appreciate the meaning of that current of ideas to follow it closely. It was not confined to Churchmen. By degrees it 1134 began to affect the social life of the people who founded it, and it began to affect them for good. The result of it was that the whole of the springs and impulses of that great social movement which has transformed Wales came from Nonconformity.
I will take one case, a case to which I have given some study and with which I am more or less familiar—the case of education. I affirm that education in Wales owes almost nothing to the Church and almost everything to Nonconformity. I will make my words good by witnesses who were themselves members, and devoted members, of the Church of England. When the great education movement reached a point when it could progress no longer without help from the State, the Education Act of 1870 was passed. The clergy in Wales looked coldly upon it. Among those who occupied the Welsh Bishoprics there was one man, one of the most distinguished men of modern times in the Church of England, who gave them a warning—I mean Bishop Thirlwall, the Bishop of St. David's, a man of large intelligence, a man who had been in his younger days a member of that brilliant group to which Mill and the Austins belonged, a man who was a distinguished scholar of Cambridge, a man who, by his character and his outlook on life, merits the words which are carved on the slab which covers his remains in Westminster Abbey. Cor sapiens et intelligens ad discernendum judicium. Bishop Thirlwall warned the Church in Wales of that day what would happen if they refused to take their legitimate and lawful place as the leaders of the people in the development of the new Welsh national education movement. But they stood aloof; they disregarded his warning. Yet a little later came another warning. The Welsh Intermediate Education Act was not passed until 1889; it was passed in the time of the Conservative Government, but it was really the work of prominent people unconnected with the Conservative Party and unconnected with the Church of England. It was essentially a Nonconformist movement, and it led to the furnishing of a supply of schools in Wales which have done an immense deal to raise the intellectual and moral tone of the whole of the Welsh people. From that movement, again, the Church stood largely aloof. There were, of course, many prominent men in the Church of England who worked hard at that time; but a few swallows do not make a summer. 1135 and the truth remains that the Church in the main held aloof from that movement.
Then, my Lords, came the third movement—the movement to give a university to Wales, and to provide for still higher education. What happened then? The proposal was hailed with acclamation throughout Wales and in the House of Commons, but your Lordships passed a Motion to reject the charter in the interests of Lampeter, because Lampeter happened to be the Church College, and because it did not suit Lampeter to make the effort necessary to bring herself up to that level which made her teaching appropriate to come within the scope of a university. That is a state of things that many Churchmen in Wales are totally unconscious of. While they have been undoubtedly getting on, others have been getting on far faster. The great movement in Wales has been progressing outside and apart from them in a way they have not perceived. What has been the consequence? Even in theology and in the affairs of the Church the clergy in Wales are dropping far below the level of the Welsh Nonconformist ministers. The teaching at Lampeter is a case in point. What is the result? It is that the Nonconformist colleges in Wales now devote themselves to elaborate post-graduate studies in theology, following upon training at the university, with the result that the Nonconformist ministry in Wales is shooting away from anything the Church can compass.
I do not ask your Lordships to rely on any testimony of my own in this matter. I cite here a paper read at the Church Congress which took place in 1908. The most rev. Primate who is going to speak later had urged the desirability of improving the education of the clergy in Wales, and this paper was read by one who is well known, Sir Harry Reichel, a distinguished educationalist and the Principal of Bangor College. He is also a distinguished member of the Church, and his father was a well-known Bishop. He is a man who brings to his knowledge experience of the great universities of England at which he was a distinguished graduate, and he also has a great knowledge of Wales. This is what he says about the state of theological training in Wales as between the Non-conformists and the Church, and as afford- 1136 ing reason why the Church is more and more losing its grip—When I first came into Wales, Lampeter turned out a better type of man, take him all round, than the best of the Nonconformist colleges—That was before this great Nonconformist educational movement of which I spoke; I mean before the University became what it has become, and before the Intermediate Education Act was produced—The positions are now reversed. At present the Lampeter men are quite out-classed by the students of these colleges who enjoy the full advantages of the new system. What has happened in the interim? The great educational movement. The Nonconformist colleges have brought themselves into line with this movement. Lampeter stands where she did. No one who has not been brought into close contact with their students can realise the degree to which the whole intellectual position of these colleges has been raised and strengthened by that reconstruction, especially in the attraction of an abler sort of student. When the Independent College first came to Bangor, none of its students were in a position to study for a degree; they could only take junior classes. Now not only do all who enter the University College pursue degree courses, but they also win their full proportion of College scholarships and University distinctions. We are, indeed, if things remain as they are in Wales, within measurable distance of a time when theological learning, even in a subject like Church History, will have to be sought, not in the Church parsonage, but in the Nonconformist manse.I will go on and read one or two other sentences dealing with Lampeter—Where in Wales must we seek for the true home of theological learning and research in future, if the conditions remain unchanged? Not in Lampeter, but in Bala, Bangor, Aberystwyth, Brecon, Cardiff, Carmarthen. Who will be the future leaders of theological thought in Wales? Not the clergy of the Church, but the ministers of the Nonconformist denominations.That is the view taken by Churchmen. The only other citation I will make is one by another great Churchman who is well known to your Lordships—Dean Edwards. Dean Edwards was one of those men who, while a Churchman, was also a great progressive reformer. This was what he said, speaking at the Church Congress in Swansea in 1879—For fifty years every teacher whose name lives in the hearts of the Welsh people has been almost without exception a Nonconformist. While the Bishops were laying hands upon unfit men, the natural heaven-born teachers of Wales were influencing thousands in the chapels.I have read those extracts because it is of the highest importance that your 1137 Lordships should realise what you are asked to do. It is not that we do not recognise the efforts that have been made of late years and the improvement that has taken place. But it is, I say again, that a far mightier force has been bearing on the whole current of Welsh national life in a fashion which it is wholly impossible for the Church to rise to. And the result has been that a great barrier has grown up, a barrier which I think is a bad thing to exist, and which it is impossible to redress unless by Disestablishment.
It is not only in education, although that is an illustration which goes to the touchstone, but there are other things. There is the great Sunday school movement in Wales. Do not let your Lordships suppose that by Sunday school in Wales is meant the same thing as Sunday school here. No. These are assemblages of the people who meet in their thousands for instruction of all kinds and for edification and spiritual enlightenment. And throughout Wales the Sunday school movement has received an impetus for several generations past which has made the whole difference in the every-day lives of the people. It is at these gatherings that much of the vitality of the spiritual life of Wales to-day has seen its origin. All these things, again, are outside the Church. And when you come to science and literature Wales is yet young. She is young in her higher education, she has her spurs in many respects to win, but the brilliant young men she has sent forth already are men who come not from the Church. The great movement against phthisis in Wales is inspired from Nonconformist sources. Do not for a moment imagine that I think Churchmen in Wales are cold on these subjects. On the contrary, I know they would like to come forward, but they are fifty years too late for their task. Accomplish it they cannot, and any one who watches the symptoms of the time can only feel that the gap is becoming greater, and that the whole volume of spiritual and intellectual and moral life is thrown with increasing energy into this wide and ever widening channel.
I hope I have shown your Lordships that the demand which this Bill contains is not based merely on the fact that by ten to one the Welsh Members have voted in favour of it; not on any agitation 1138 which has taken place outside, set up for Party purposes; not on any narrow desire to injure the Church of England—we realise that Disendowment and Disestablishment are painful things—but the demand is based on the feeling that, in justice to a nation, in fidelity to principles winch we adopted long ago in the case of Scotland and Ireland, we cannot deny to Wales the one remedy for a condition of things which is bad to-day and which cannot be bettered unless drastic means are resorted to.
After all, what does it come to? For five generations and more you have had this movement growing and ever growing; you have had the people of Wales organising themselves and their national life in a new fashion. With the extension of the franchise it was to be expected that this great spiritual movement of which I have spoken, and which dated from an earlier time, should take effect in influencing the political views of the people of Wales. It has done so. The strength of political opinion is now drawn from the ranks of Nonconformity, not in the sense of hostility to the Church of England in Wales but in the desire for a freer and larger Church, a Church more detached, if you like, from the ordinary creeds and contentions, where that spirit of which I have spoken would flow with a fuller volume, and where the people would feel that their national life was more completely realised. To talk of national life in Wales as connected with the Establishment as it now exists is to talk vain words. It has been said that these are times in which people are turning their minds away from such problems as Disestablishment and from these theological controversies. So they are in some parts of the country, but not in Wales, and it cannot be so in Wales while the state of things that I have described continues, and while the breach which took place long ago continues uncontrolled.
The case of Scotland has been invoked. We have been told to look at Scotland, to look at the people drawing together in increasing community as regards the principles of Establishment, and then to ask ourselves why in Wales it should be different if it were not on account of some petty jealousies. I know Scotland pretty well, and I know the history of the Church movement in Scotland pretty thoroughly. 1139 I stood within the Bar of this House nine years ago when a judgment was passed which deprived a Church of the very means of livelihood, not of ancient endowments which had accrued before the Act of Uniformity, and not because that Church was different from what it has become to-day, but endowments much of which represented what had been subscribed and contributed by the very people who were listening to the judgment—endowments which had been added together in the few years previously, and which these people gave in the belief that they were contributed for their Church, a Church which they thought was free from the interference of the Courts and the State. They were wrong. The terms of the trust deed were so worded that they could not retain their own property. The terms of that judgment were accepted, as people loyally accept the terms of judgments in this country, but the nation arose. Public opinion fashioned itself, and there was an appeal to a greater tribunal, and an Act of Parliament was passed, hardly with a dissentient voice, in 1905, which sought to remedy the legal injustice which wag then done—not that the law was wrongly declared, but that the declaration of the law was itself an injustice which ought never under a different condition of things to have taken place. What happened? Parliament declared, with the full assent of the nation, that after proper provision had been made for the minority who had not themselves contributed to the funds, after a generous provision had been made for them, the money should be given back to the Church which had lost it, on the footing that that Church should prescribe its own formulas, and mould its creeds and maintain those creeds, subject to what had always been the standard, the headship of Christ and the authority of Holy Scripture.
A very remarkable thing happened on that occasion. The Establishment of the Church of Scotland came forward and said "We, too, wish to be relieved of the control of the State; its hand weighs heavily upon us; we, too, find we are not free to mould our own formulas, and we ask you to give us that freedom also." And Parliament granted them that freedom, and to-day the Church of Scotland is almost as free to manage its own spiritual affairs as if it were a disestablished Church. It is easy to misquote cases of that kind as 1140 showing that there is ground for supposing that the demand of the Welsh people is running contrary to the demand which has been made in Scotland. If the Church in Wales had not been dominated by the State, do you think that the history of that Church would have been what it is to-day? Do you think that the currents of national life would have drifted away from that Church, and that every great movement would have had to seek its inspiration outside that Church? No; it is because there is a great gulf between the state of things in Wales to-day and the state of things in Scotland that it is vain to bring in that analogy.
To-morrow your Lordships will be asked to declare your voices on the Welsh Church Bill. It is not that the Welsh representatives have declared by ten to one in favour of this Bill; it is not because a large majority of the representatives of the United Kingdom have declared for it, that I appeal to your Lordships. My appeal is based upon this—that it is best for Wales, that it is a noble and righteous cause, and that unless this Bill succeeds the genius of the Welsh people, the spirit of their religious life, can never be satisfied. It is a hard thing to sever the Church in Wales from the Church in England, but it is a harder thing to have the moral and spiritual and intellectual life of Wales crushed down because it feels the heavy hand of an alien Church. I know it is not likely that anything I can say will influence your Lordships. It is not that your Lordships do not want to do what is just and right; it is that you are not in contact with the facts. It is one of the evils of the present constitution of this House that we are not in contact with the facts, that we do not know the people, that we take things according to the one-sided views which are the only views of which we have practical experience. And so it may be that to-morrow your Lordships, by an overwhelming majority, will pronounce against this Bill. But I venture to say to you that if you do, you will have afforded one more proof of the wisdom of the nation when, three years ago, it declared that this House could not be left with unrestrained powers.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, the occasion to-night is too grave a one for me to feel that I could give a silent vote, but as I 1141 ventured only a few months ago to trouble your Lordships at considerable length on the details and merits of the Welsh case in itself, I will endeavour to-night not to retread that well-trodden ground. I desire rather to say something as to the character and conditions of this discussion itself. My noble friend Lord Salisbury has already referred to some points. I wish to deal with one or two others. But I confess to some difficulty in resisting the temptation to follow the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack into some of the regions which he has traversed. I should have liked to follow him into Welsh history, and to press a little for an explanation as to how the facts of to-day correspond with the noble Viscounts description of the spiritual life of Wales being "crushed by the heavy hand of an alien Church." I confess I am literally unable to understand what that means. But there will be two voices raised from the Episcopal Bench tomorrow of men better qualified than any others in the land to deal with subjects of that kind, and I leave that to them. Again, I should like to follow the noble Viscount's handling of the subject of Scotland, of which I too, as a Scotsman, claim to know something, but I fear to do so lest by some unwary word I should set back even by a hair's breadth the movement now going forward towards that union which we all desire to see there. Still more do I find it difficult not to follow the noble Viscount who has avowed himself the disciple of Erastus into the region whither he desires to lead us. There are a good many things I should like to say in reply to or comment on the remarks he made on that subject if they were entirely relevant to what we are trying to do to-night.
I venture to say that any one who will look fairly at what is happening here this evening will find it impossible to deny that our discussion is to a large extent unreal. I am genuinely sorry for those who with the utmost honesty and frankness advocated the Parliament Act two years ago on the ground that its provisions would ensure full and effective discussion in your Lordships' House, for two years at least, on every great question, with a corresponding effect on the country outside. There were some of us who doubted that, but our doubts were courteously flouted, if flouting can ever be courteous, by spokesmen on the Front Bench, notably 1142 by my noble friend the Lord President of the Council, who told us in detail what would happen in the years to come under the Parliament Act. He told us with reference to the handling of a great Bill under the Parliament Act that—It will be an immensely long process, and there will be all the blaze of the Press, all the thunder of the platform, all the time. Are we to suppose that the reiterated and deliberate arguments used in this House by very competent advocates are to count for nothing, and that they will make no impression at all upon the mind of the voter? No one can think anything of the kind.…To suppose that a… Bill is to go through those two years unchanged, unmodified, for the purpose of the Government, is really to show a curious ignorance, it seems to me, of legislative conditions in this country.I will not try to analyse the feelings of an advocate who used those words when he sees what has happened and what is happening in the country. A majority for this Bill in all its stages was found in the House of Commons, but in not a few Divisions found only—and it is not irrelevant to remind the country of it again—by the help of Irish Members who, while perfectly right and free to give their votes on the subject, gave those votes, by their own quite deliberate avowal, not with regard to anything the Bill contained, but in regard solely to Irish questions. They never concealed that for a moment. One of their spokesmen who gave his vote for the Bill told us that he had not even read the Bill.
After that experience in the House of Commons the Bill came to your Lordships' House. In the debate which took place here a few months ago the kind of arguments to which the Lord President of the Council referred were undoubtedly brought forward on one side, but these arguments lose a great deal of their importance, or at all events of their practical interest, if the public finds that, say what the critics may, the other side vouchsafes no answer at all. In the whole of that debate two speeches only were made by the Government. The debate was opened by the lucid explanation of the Bill given by the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp. That was followed for two nights by weighty speeches from various parts of the House; and I venture to say that the explanation of the Bill given by the noble Earl was handled in a manner which showed that a great deal was lacking to the proper understanding 1143 of the question. But we waited for the close of the debate to see how these weighty speeches were going to be dealt with and answered, and we bad from the noble Marquess who leads the House a speech characterised by all the grace and kindliness and courtesy which marks all his speeches; but all the while we felt that we wanted something more. The finance of the Bill had been scathingly criticised. The noble Marquess, with a modesty which really disarms opposition, excused himself from entering into that because of what he described, I am most sure incorrectly, as a constitutional and livelong inability of his to handle mathematical questions. The explanation, perhaps, was adequate to satisfy the conscience of the noble Marquess; but imagine how it must have sounded to the Welsh parishioner who finds that the financial problem which he has got to face, a very practical one indeed, is answered by such a phrase as the one which I have just quoted!
But the noble Marquess did handle the question slightly. Upon some of the points he was pressed, in the course of his speech, by interruptions of a reasonable kind, with regard specially to what he had said upon the total absence from the Bill of any arrangement for the compensation and the assistance of curates throughout Wales, a vital matter which the Bill leaves untouched. Your Lordships will remember the questions that were asked. Finally, the noble Marquess told us that he did not really understand the subject, but that he would inquire. That was, I suppose, half an hour before we were to divide on the matter, and I imagine the inquiry is going on still, for we have not had any answer to the questions that were thus brought forward. As regards tithe, the noble Marquess said, most naturally and reasonably, that though he referred to the subject in some of its general aspects he was no student of that particular matter. I hope the noble Marquess will realise that I am in no sense criticising, still less censuring, his inability to deal adequately with the finance of the measure, the tenure and emoluments of curates, and the rather obscure question of the origin of tithes. If the noble Marquess were a private member no kind of exception could be taken to that. But it is surely another matter when a Bill of first-rate importance is brought before us by His Majesty's Government and we are 1144 asked to consider it and we do consider it and raise all the large objections which were successively raised by men eminently entitled to raise them in this House, and then find there is no answer whatever given by the Government to what we have brought forward. How does that correspond to the anticipations, or rather to the promises, I have mentioned?
Your Lordships will recall the speeches delivered by the noble Viscount, St. Aldwyn, by the two Welsh Bishops, by Lord Selborne, by Lord Dynevor, and most of all, perhaps, by the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition. They were speeches which imperatively called for some reply, not in general terms of courtesy, but in detail, to meet the objections which had been raised. That is not all. The noble Viscount, the Lord President, when he told us how the Parliament Act would work, called attention to the weight that would attach to the demonstrations and the representations outside. I believe I am right in saying that never in the history of England have there been on any subject demonstrations which were at once orderly, peaceable, and even religious, and which attained to anything like the scale or the proportions which the demonstrations on this subject have attained, and which have gone on, and are going on, throughout the country now. It has not been in Wales only, though largely; it has not been in London only, though largely; but it has been everywhere up and down the country. Your Lordships in this House know well about it. You know there is not a county in England or in Wales in which demonstrations have not been, and are now being, held of a large and reasonable kind to show how eagerly thoughtful men and women wish to express the feelings they have on this subject. These demonstrations are not of Churchmen only, or of Unionists only, for sometimes every speaker on some of the platforms has been a Liberal, and at almost every large meeting some of the speakers have been leading Nonconformists. We have had published protests also—there was one in The Times this morning—from leading Nonconformist laymen, to show what they believe to be the effect this Bill will have on Wales. As to petitions, I believe no record in the past history of the House of Commons can compare with what we can now show as regards the number of petitions signed. There have been 9,800 petitions signed by 1145 more than two million people. And these petitions have been practically all on one side. The demonstrations have been accompanied by no sort of lawlessness or disorder. Are we to be told that because these manifestations have been accompanied by no sort of lawlessness or disorder they are therefore to be ignored? And yet in the discussions that have taken place in the House of Commons they have been absolutely and totally ignored. I do not mean that there has been no allusion to them, but the effect of any such representations upon a Parliament in which the new Act is at work seems to be absolutely nil. It is this which makes me wonder how the situation is now regarded by those who gave the kind of anticipations which were held out to us as to how the Parliament Act was going to work in practice.
All this has given pause to some of the supporters of His Majesty's Government in this matter outside, and a report grew a little while ago in volume that it was not unlikely that the Government might modify or mollify some of the provisions in the Bill, say perhaps do something for the elderly Welsh-speaking curate, who is going, as it becomes impossible for him to obtain work elsewhere, to find himself literally without any provision at all—or make some other change, perhaps, with regard to the dismemberment or something of that kind. But the Home Secretary and those responsible for the Bill hastened to reassure their anxious supporters. We have had at least one public speech delivered, a little while ago at Cardiff, in which the Home Secretary assured his hearers that there was no thought of modifications or anything of that sort. He described such a suggestion as a "pure myth." There have also been a considerable number of deputations. It has been a little difficult, perhaps not unreasonably, to penetrate behind the veil and to know what exactly took place; but we can gather it for ourselves from the thanks tendered to the Home Secretary in the House by those who said they had now been perfectly satisfied that no further change was to be made, that not a further penny was to be given, and that the Home Secretary would not budge an inch in the matter. That meant, if I understand it right, that the Bill was to be left to what the Welsh leader in the House of Commons described as the "machinery" of the Parliament Act. I will quote his words. He said— 1146This Bill is in the grip of the legislative machine, of absolutely good pattern and up-to-date, and I am rejoiced that the Government will do nothing to stop the action of the machinery which is now set in motion, and which will turn this Bill into a Statute in the course of the next session.That is the way in which it is described, and with that machinery automatically at work the Bill comes back to this House and the question arises, "What ought we to do?"
Voices are not lacking on the part of Liberals who are also strong Churchmen—men who feel that they are in rather a grave plight. Allegiance to their leaders and also the views they hold of Welsh nationality forced them to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill. But they see also its harshness, and they say, Won't the opponents of the Bill go to the Government and press the Government to give way so as to relieve them from the sense of discomfort—I won't say shame—which they feel? That argument is very weighty—for them. But does it cover the ground? I have always tried to handle this question on grounds which are larger, higher, deeper than terms of finance. I am profoundly convinced that we should neither serve the truest permanent interests of the Welsh people nor follow the highest traditions of public life in this country if we were now to go hat in hand to the Government and say, "We believe you are inflicting a great wrong. We believe the Welsh people will find it so. We are convinced that the country has not rightly understood, and that where the matter is understood support for the Bill is waning, if it has not gone. But none the less we will join with you in forcing the Bill through without further appeal to the country if you will give a little more money to the Church, or modify some of the provisions which seem to us to be harsh."
My Lords, I believe such action would be wholly wrong. I believe it would be inflicting bitter wrong upon those who have the Church's deepest and most sacred interests at heart—wrong to those who come after us. For be it always remembered that the property, the position, the privileges, and the responsibilities with which we are asked to truck—to use a common phrase—are not ours to bargain with; they belong to our children and children's children in generations to come, and we should be doing a great wrong were we to forget 1147 that and bargain with them now. But even apart from being wrong it would also be an ignominious course. The Government, in fear of such a proposal coming, have, it would seem, gravely pledged themselves beforehand to refuse it and have secured votes in consequence. If we were to go to-night or to-morrow to the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, and ask that this should be done, he would have either to reject our proposal with courteous scorn or to throw over colleagues who have pledged the Government not to do it. I believe the noble Marquess must be grateful to us for not placing him in that dilemma. I do not deny that the position of Liberals would be different if, now that the facts are clear, the policy disclosed, the details open to debate in the country, a vote of the whole people of the country were taken, and the matter sufficiently—I do not say exclusively—placed before them, and the voice were firm—Go forward. You have precedent for doing that. Some months ago Mr. McKenna spoke of the close analogy of the present Government action to what was done in the case of the Irish Church Bill. No analogy could be more misleading. Mr. Gladstone in 1868 moved a series of Resolutions with regard to the Irish Church. The Resolutions did not themselves say much, but Mr. Gladstone spoke night after night upon them and on the Bill which followed, the Suspensory Bill, so that the country went into the election at the end of the year absolutely and fully understanding the whole question before them. The country responded with no uncertain voice, and then this House set itself, as it always does, to give reasonable effect to the country's decision. In the present case, when the last General Election took place, the country did not know what were the details—I do not mean the small details—did not know the manner in which the subject was going to be dealt with. But the automatic action of the machinery of the Parliament Act was there to be relied on, and arguments might be dispensed with. That is not, I believe, what was intended to be the working of the Parliament Act by those who with quite other hopes promoted it in this House.
It is our duty to vote for the Resolution which asks that the country shall have the opportunity of now considering the proposals in the Bill. The principle for 1148 which we contend is large and grave. It may be stated best as we stated it so often before in its simplest form. A great trust is ours—the privilege of foremost service to all who will accept it; the privilege of permanent service by the continuity of the tenure of the office of clergy ministering in all the parishes in the land; the service that we render recognised by the State, recognised in common life; the service daily rendered to and daily accepted by people of all sorts and kinds, Churchmen and Nonconformists, in the homes of the people, to a degree which I am perfectly convinced is not adequately realised by those who are not personally cognisant of the way in which the clergy of the old parish churches in the land are recognised and turned to by the people. Of course, if this Bill is passed, I do not mean that all that would be stopped to-morrow. Of course not. Many of our clergy who have done this work hitherto, and done it to the uttermost of their power, would still continue to do it; but they would do it in an atmosphere of restraint, fettered in every direction by the change which you had brought about. We are asked to give up, or to lay down, sonic at least of those special opportunities for service. To do so, as we think, would not only be wrong in itself but it would also be to run counter to the whole trend of the popular, democratic, and corporate treatment of the life of the people, which has become more common now than it was when these questions were started in the days when the Disestablishment cry began. When the Liberation Society was founded the people had not got those present-day ideas of corporate life and action and united recognition of the common good behind the idea of public worship. The cry that "caught" on then was natural, but to-day it would be almost an anachronism, when in harmony with present-day theories we think of people's common rights, and their freehold in their parish church claimable by all who are ready to make the rules and system of the National Church their own and to conform to its rules and ways of guiding and helping them. We begin to feel how out of date this Disestablishment cry is, and how soon the change, if it came about, would be discovered to be a disaster.
In connection with that some of your Lordships may have seen some recent 1149 statistics as to the religious belief and the denominational adherence of prisoners in our gaols published a few days ago. Taunts have been levied at us as to the large number who claim to be members of the Church of England—13,000 out of 18,000, or something like that; and people have repeated what was said by Mr. John Bright a good many years ago, "We will give you the prisoners in." I regard it as not the least of our privileges and one of our proudest claims that we should be set here to help those who have gone under. We strive to help those who have fallen; we should like to think they fell it so, and to think that our efforts have not been in vain. If it can be shown that they are responding to our desire to help them and are claiming membership of our Church, instead of being something to taunt us with that is something we are glad to accept. We do not, of course, deny that other workers besides ourselves can make a corresponding claim.
Well, my Lords, in the fabric of our national life we hold that sacred trust, a trust which has come down to us from ancient days with an unbroken continuity. I was glad to have the testimony of the noble and learned Viscount, supported by the Prime Minister elsewhere, in the teeth of certain strange objections which have been raised, as to the legitimacy of the claim we make to that unbroken continuity of the Church of England from early days until now.
We want to discharge our responsibility to the full. We have often failed. But what body is there, past or present, if you search its history, and especially if the history is a long one, where you cannot find failure or inadequacy? Of course you will. But we honestly claim that the Church is doing its very best to amend anything that is amiss, to strengthen anything that is weak in its administration, and to be true to its sacred trust; and we believe that, day by day, the people of Wales are getting to understand us better and are responding more readily to the endeavours we make.
Do what you will—I am bound to repeat this again—Parliament cannot deprive us of the most sacred, the most essential part of our trust, the offering of the health-giving ministry of Word and Sacrament to all who are willing to receive it. You 1150 cannot deprive us of that privilege. I honestly believe that you have not the slightest wish to do so; but sometimes you speak as if because that remains the Bill can do us no harm. At the close of the debate in the House of Commons Mr. Ellis Griffith quoted words of mine, I gladly repeat them and make them my own again now—It is not essential to a Church to be established, and it is not essential to our Church in its essence, in its spiritual power, in its divine grace, and in its ministry.I would repeat it a hundred times; and I repeat it again now. But if you argue, as some speakers have seemed to argue, "What harm, therefore, can the Bill do? Your life will remain with its essence untouched," you miss the whole point of our contention. Will you lop off a man's arm and then taunt him by telling him he need not mind, his life is not destroyed? You trifle with us when you say, "Go on just as before," when you have crippled us as this Bill will cripple us. The harm will be twofold, direct and indirect. It will be direct ill to the parishes, especially to rural parishes. We have been told again and again by the Bishop of St. Asaph as to what will happen in his diocese when life interests run out. The Home Secretary, when confronted with that, replied that it "has no connection with truth," and when pressed for some better answer he takes refuge in silence or in something which is no explanation whatever. It is unworthy of him; I will not use a stronger term. Attention was called to this answer, or no answer, of his a month ago in one of the very last speeches made in the House of Commons by that brilliant and dearly-loved hero of the boyhood—yes, and the manhood—of England, the man whose sudden passing hence has clouded our summer and left a blank in the social, the political, the religious, and the athletic life of our country which it is difficult to exaggerate and impossible to fill.
I pass from that to the indirect harm which this Bill would bring about. What I you propose strikes at the principle on which the people of this island have grown from strength to strength. The Home Secretary avows that, if he can compass it, this is only a first step; he regards Establishment as morally wrong and will destroy it in England when he has the power. I think I do not misinterpret Lord Beauchamp 1151 when I say he takes the same view, for he made a speech in Hampshire last year in which he said that "the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales was only the first step towards the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in England." That is what we should expect from the straightforwardness and honesty of the speakers who avow it.
We thus see clearly that we are asked to take a step affecting our whole national recognition of the religion interwoven in our historic life. In this House and in the country we are alive to the fact and others outside are not blind to it. Twenty-six years ago Dr. Liddon communicated to the Press the opinion entertained on the subject of Disestablishment in England by the great Dr. Döllinger, one of the foremost and most capable of the students of early and contemporary history. "For my part," said Dr. Döllinger, "I think that any such measure should be firmly resisted. It would be a blow to Christianity, not only in England, but throughout Europe." Dr. Döllinger went on to say that if such a measure were adopted by the Legislature of a country with a history like that of England (and I ask your Lordships to note that point, it is our history which makes the difference), there could be no mistake as to its significance. It would be well understood alike by the friends and foes of Christianity—in Germany, in France, throughout the civilised world.
For these reasons we ask people to think and think again before they do what some day they would bitterly deplore. Does any one really believe that the people of the Welsh hills and valleys will not deplore it when they find the money which supported the parish life has largely disappeared, the old Church disinherited and displaced, and the tithes still to be paid, only more rigidly than before, but going nobody knows where, enforced by a public officer instead of by a neighbour and a friend? In The Times to-day there is a weighty and thoughtful letter from a Nonconformist layman in which he says the money now used for the propagation of religion will go into the hands of the county councils, "where it will disappear like snow in the sunshine, and in a short time be no more effective than a bucketful of water in the Bristol Channel." All this is to be done for whose good, for whose happiness, for whose betterment? We know what persons and what cause will 1152 lose in power of usefulness, in service to God and man, and we ask again, who is going to gain? The question so far remains hopelessly, helplessly unanswered.
§ LORD PONTYPRIDD
My Lords, I wish in the first place to thank the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack for his great speech, one in which he did ample justice to the large side of this question. Personally I would be quite willing, as far as I am concerned, to allow the case to stand where he put it, for I despair of being able usefully to add anything to what he has said and said so admirably. I am very glad that this great question has been argued in the good spirit in which it has been by the most rev. Primate and others who have taken part in this debate. Indeed, I must say, as a Welshman, that I think the most rev. Primate is very kind to champion the cause of the Welsh Church as he has done when we remember how reluctantly the Welsh Churchmen joined the Province of Canterbury. We are told that they took a good deal of persuading, and the exercise of not a little muscular Christianity, before they did join it. But so far as I know, it must have been very pleasing to them in these latter days, because now they seem to be as loth to be disconnected from as they were in the early days to be joined to that Province.
I have had a great surprise during these debates. I am bound to say I had expected to hear a great deal more about Disestablishment, but that seems to be a negligible quantity so far as this debate is concerned. We have heard very little indeed from the most rev. Primate on that question; but perhaps I may be allowed to read an extract from a speech which I understand he delivered, and which shows his opinion with regard to Disestablishment. He said—It is not essential to a Church to be Established, and it is not essential to our Church in its essence, in its spiritual power, in its Divine grace, and in its ministry.But however much they may be lacking in appreciation of Establishment, I think they have made it up by the way they have appreciated the endowments. I must say that this is the part of the question that least appeals to me, and I rejoice in the fact and thank God that not one penny of the revenues of the Church will come into the possession of the Free Churches of Wales. I have given a little more attention 1153 to this side of the question lately, and, alter all, if yon go by payment for results the Church has not so much to complain of. It is generally conceded that when the ancient endowments were given the Church at that time was conterminous with the nation, but will any one say that that is so to-day. What do we find, from figures given before the Royal Commission as to the Church to-day, as to the numbers of her communicants and the numbers of communicants of other denominations? The Church only serves about one-third of the Principality. I am glad to find that no less a sum than £102,000 will be left to the Church after Disestablishment.
I am sorry that the noble Marquess who moved the rejection of the Bill is not in his place. If he were I would ask him how many times he requires a question to be submitted to the judgment of the country. As far as I am concerned, I do not remember a time from 1885 downwards when this was not always the first question. I may relate an incident which occurred during one of the elections in the constituency which I had the honour of representing for a quarter of a century in the House of Commons. At one of the elections a gentleman was induced to stand on the alleged ground that there was little, if any, demand for Disestablishment, but he had not been on the field very long before he met a mutual friend and remarked to him "Why, the first question put to me every-where is 'Are you in favour of Disestablishment?'"—and any one who knows Wales knows that the question of religious equality is the one great burning question. The noble Marquess made a reference to myself in regard to a statement which I made in the previous debate in which I stated that I believed that endowments were inimical to the success of the Church. I stand by that opinion, notwithstanding the fact that Nonconformists are now going in for endowment funds. I personally do not hold with it. I do not believe in the principle at all. It seems to me like an insurance against the Deity. But it is the fact that those districts of Wales where the Church has made the most headway are the very places where it has the least ancient endowments. May I refer again to the case of Cardiff? I remember the time when they had but three churches in Cardiff. They have to-day about thirty-five churches. How does this Bill affect the thirty-five places of worship in Cardiff?
1154 We are told that it takes only £700 per annum away? That might be made up if the members chose to do so by a payment of three halfpennies per month. The Church of England has not had the same opportunities as have the Nonconformists of learning about voluntary contributions. We have had to live for many centuries past on voluntary contributions, and we know what it means. Indeed, some people have had to suffer for even advocating that principle, for when our great martyr, John Penry, was summoned up to London before the Court presided over by Bishop Bancroft he had to answer to two indictments. One was that he said that no man should be considered a true minister who could not preach to the people, and the other was that he demanded the right to conduct services and carry on the worship of God in Wales on the voluntary principle. He was asked to withdraw those two statements and he refused, and he suffered the penalty. The penalty was death.
I should like to give your Lordships one example, if I may, of what the people do with regard to voluntary contributions, and the way they pay their chapel debts. There was one chapel in which I was very much interested in the Rhondda Valley. The people there had built a chapel and school buildings that came to a sum of no less than £6,000. In seven years they paid off that amount. I was anxious to know how the money had been subscribed, and the secretary told me that it was made up of one sum of £20, six sums of £10 each, and all the rest, the balance to make up the £6,000, was of smaller amounts. I do not for a moment say we have a monopoly of this. I have seen too many noble examples in the Roman Catholic Church and in the Church of England. I have known a number of churches in Cardiff that have been literally built up from the pence of the people. I have always found where they have trusted to the generosity of the people there has been no failure, and no want of money. This movement was begun as a great religious movement, and it was led by such men as Dr. Lewis Edwards, Dr. William Rees, and Dr. Thomas, of Ponty-pool, but they had to call Parliament to their aid before they could carry out that great principle of religious equality. That was the reason why the political side came into the matter at the beginning.
1155 And may I say that in asking for this we are not asking for what England has not already granted. The Parliament of this country recognised the religious opinion of the country at the time of the Reformation; and so they did, as was mentioned by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, in the case of Scotland, and more recently still have they done so in the case of the Church of England in Ireland. We are asking you to do the same thing for our little country. There is nothing more that the people of Wales could do to show this country what their desire is than they have already done, and in a purely constitutional way—namely, by the number of Members Wales sends to Parliament pledged to carry out their wishes in this respect. We are asking the Government of this country to redress this ancient wrong in the best interests of the Welsh nation.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
My Lords, the argument with which the noble Lord who has just sat down concluded his speech is our old friend the claim of Welsh nationality. I think some of the supporters of this Bill are so obsessed with the idea of a separate Welsh nationality that they are really unable to apply themselves to a fair consideration of the matter which is directly before your Lordships' House. But no doubt that feeling prevails among many in Wales besides the noble Lord who has just sat down. The Home Secretary, I think, told the House of Commons, in discussing this matter, that it was one of vital interest to Wales but of no real effect whatever in the rest of the United Kingdom. Well, my Lords, I do feel as an Englishman, though Englishmen are not apparently credited with much feeling nowadays upon any subject whatever, that it is a matter of interest to me, as to all Englishmen who are members of the Church, that a part of that Church should be disendowed and disestablished, and separated from the rest of the Church. But the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack in the eloquent speech which he made never seemed to consider that England had a right to a voice in this matter at all. He told us it was a long-established principle that freedom to mould the organisation of the Church should be conceded to every part of the country. That was rather a singular statement from a noble and learned Viscount who 1156 is one of the Ministers responsible for the Home Rule Bill, which, recognising a separate nationality in Ireland by the gift of a separate Government and Parliament, yet absolutely refuses to that Government and Parliament any right whatever to endow or establish a Church in Ireland. Yet the claim of Wales to mould the organisation of the Church cannot be as strong as the claim of Ireland, at any rate in the mind of His Majesty's Government, because they have never yet accepted the principle of a separate Government and Parliament for Wales. Until that principle is accepted I, for one, consider that Wales has no more right to claim that this question should be decided solely by the veto of the great majority of Welsh Members than that a similar question should be so decided for any separate part of England.
We hear a great deal about the longstanding majority of ten to one of the Welsh Members in favour of the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church. I fancy that if we cared to go into statistics we should find at the present moment that the Members of Parliament returned by the four northern counties of England are by a majority of more than four-fifths in favour of the principle of Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church; but it would not enter even into the mind of the First Lord of the Admiralty in his wildest dreams of a future heptarchy to suggest that that question should be decided for the four counties of Westmoreland, Cumberland, Northumberland, and Durham merely by the votes of those Members of Parliament. That was one of the arguments mostly dwelt upon by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. But there was another, and it was put more concisely, though perhaps less eloquently and less fairly, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the House of Commons. What did he say in the debates in the present session? He said—After centuries of experience of Anglicanism, Wales had come to the conclusion that the Church was entirely unsuited to its racial temperament and spiritual needs, and that it had failed in everything that ought to be expected from a National Church.The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack urged that in other words. He deemed Disestablishment and Dis- 1157 endowment an evil, but said that some evils might be incurred as remedying greater evils, and that this was one. He told your Lordships that there was a great gulf between the Church in Wales and the people, or between the Church in Wales and what he described as Welsh idealism, and that gulf could only be spanned by the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church—or rather, I think, by the Disestablishment of the Church, for though I carefully listened to his speech I heard very little indeed on the question of Disendowment.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I do not think that Disestablishment is possible under any circumstances without some, and perhaps a considerable, measure of Disendowment.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
The noble and learned Viscount is a Scotsman. Would he argue that the Church in Scotland if disestablished must also be disendowed? Why a Church which is disestablished must also be disendowed I do not quite understand. The noble and learned Viscount went on to enforce his argument by examples of the extent to which, according to his opinion, the Church in Wales was separate from the national life of Wales. He is a great authority on the subject of education. He spoke of the progress of education in Wales. He stated his view of the relative work done in promoting education by Churchmen and Nonconformists. He gave all the credit to the Nonconformists, and practically none to the Church. We shall have upon that full information, no doubt, from those who are better able to speak about it than I am, but I do not in the least believe that that is a fair statement of the work of Churchmen in promoting education in Wales. There is this to be considered. The noble and learned Viscount spoke mainly of secular education. Is it not conceivable that the Church, strongly holding that education should be conducted on a religious basis, might not be as keen in promoting education on no definite religious basis as those who are in favour of that policy?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Viscount misunderstood what I said. I took as some of my most prominent examples the extraordinary work that has been done in religious education by the Welsh nation.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
I am coming to that. The noble and learned Viscount spoke of University education, which is a purely secular education and always has been so in Wales—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The Nonconformist ministers in Wales take their Arts degree in the University, and go as part of their continuous course from the Welsh University to the five Nonconformist Colleges and take their studies in theology.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
That is exactly what I am saying. The University education apart from the Theological Colleges, to which men go afterwards, is not based on any religious teaching. May it not be taken, therefore, that the Church, which strongly holds that education should be based on definite religious teaching, has not been so forward in promoting purely secular education in Wales as those who do not consider that education should be based on religious teaching? Then the noble and learned Viscount went on to compare Lampeter with the Welsh Theological Colleges. I have no knowledge of Lampeter, but is it not the fact that the Welsh Theological Colleges profit very considerably by State assistance to their students in their University course, and possibly even in studies—I do not say theological studies—pursued in the course of their education to fit them for theological work? I should think they do. There may be good reasons why Lampeter does not obtain such assistance because it cannot come under the same rules as these other colleges have adopted. But what is the force of the argument of the noble and learned Viscount? Does he mean to say, because Churchmen in Wales have not been as forward as he thinks they ought to have been in promoting either secular education or theological studies at Lampeter, that therefore the Church in Wales is to be deprived of the small endowments she possesses for her religious work, which he must admit is well performed? I cannot 1159 conceive an argument with a less reasonable conclusion.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
What I said was that the Church's failure was to promote Welsh national idealism; that the great volume of that splendid idealism had been carried out by the Churches of Nonconformity.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
I do not know what Welsh national idealism is, unless it is the establishment of a separate Government and Parliament for Wales. Is that what the noble and learned Viscount desires?
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
There is another point to which the noble and learned Viscount alluded—the dismemberment of the Church of England by cutting off these four Welsh dioceses from the rest of the Church. To my mind, apart from what I believe to be the moral wrong of Disendowment, this is by far the worst part of the Bill we are now discussing. The noble and learned Viscount quoted some historical examples of the manner in which in the past the State had dealt in somewhat Erastian fashion with the Church. But the union of the four Welsh dioceses with the rest of the Church of England was never enacted by Parliament. It is an ecclesiastical and a spiritual union. The Prime Minister, in speaking on this matter in the House of Commons, compared it to the union between the Churches of England and Ireland. That only shows how incapable His Majesty's Ministers are of appreciating the view which Churchmen take of this question of dismemberment. The union between the Churches of England and Ireland was a purely secular and Parliamentary union. It had nothing to do with ecclesiastical or spiritual questions at all. Parliament enacted it at the time of the Act of Union. Parliament was entitled, if it chose, to dissolve it by the Irish Church Act; but I maintain, as I have maintained before in your Lordships' House, that Parliament has no right whatever to separate the four Welsh dioceses from the rest of the Church of England by removing the clergy and Bishops of those four dioceses from Convocation, and by setting up a purely new and separate religious body in Wales 1160 without any connection with the Church of England, able to frame its own ritual, to settle its own doctrines without any means of maintaining the present complete ecclesiastical and spiritual union between the four Welsh dioceses and the rest of the Church. That is what we believe is done by this Bill, and I venture to contend that it does "prejudice the spiritual unity and work of the Church"—the thing to which the Prime Minister said he would never agree.
Now, my Lords, I come to the question of Disendowment. I do not want to weary your Lordships by reiterating arguments upon that matter, but I was very glad to hear from the speech of Lord Pontypridd that at any rate he is not quite happy in his mind upon the subject of Disendowment. I think that view is shared by many persons in Wales who are not members of the Established Church, and I am confident that it is shared by very many persons in England who are in the same position. Disendowment has been defended by the extreme advocates of this Bill, like the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary, on the ground that the nation gave these ancient endowments to the Church and the nation can take away again what it has given.
§ LORD PONTYPRIDD
If the noble Viscount will allow me to interrupt him, I would like to ask him, Does he understand that I am not in accord with the Bill as it stands? If that is his opinion, I wish to tell him that I am in accord with it so far as that is concerned.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
No; I did not mean to imply that. But the noble Lord said that he did not like the part of the Bill which applied to Disendowment.
§ LORD PONTYPRIDD
I do not like that part at all, if it comes to that. But I do not see how we can go in for Disestablishment without Disendowment.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
Then I have not misrepresented the noble Lord. He adopted, with regard to Disendowment, much more plausible argument. He said that these endowments were given by past donors to the Church at the time when the Church represented the whole nation, when they were one, and that now that the members of the Church are a minority of 1161 the people in Wales there is fair ground for a reconsideration of the position of these endowments. I do not think I am misrepresenting his argument. As I have said, that is a plausible argument, but what is the logical result of it? The logical result is concurrent endowment; that you should take these endowments, maintain their religious uses, and divide them fairly among the several Christian denominations into which the population is divided. That would be a constructive policy. I do not mean to say there would be no objections to it, because, after all, the people who do not belong to the Church have voluntarily left it of their own accord, but it would be a constructive policy which I could understand, and one which would, to my mind, be infinitely preferable to the purely destructive policy embodied in this Bill.
The Prime Minister made a curious observation with regard to this point. He said that the pious donors did not simply and exclusively intend to provide for the mere mechanical side of the work of the Church, but also for the improvement of the moral and intellectual life of the people. What an extraordinary description of the Church's work, to call religious teaching, public prayer, and public worship the mere mechanical side of that work. I do not doubt that the pious donors did intend to improve the moral and intellectual life of the people; but how did they intend to improve it? Surely through religious teaching and religious influences; but this Bill takes away these endowments from religious uses and devotes them to University education and other purposes from which religious teaching is ostentatiously and absolutely debarred. I do not mean to say that the objects may not in themselves be good, but I do say, merely from the point of view of economy that a more wasteful way of endowing Universities or museums or providing funds for county councils for the purposes suggested in this Bill cannot possibly be conceived. You might find funds for this purpose by subscriptions or from the rates or the taxes and you would do it without waste, but you cannot disendow a Church without, in common justice, applying a large part of its property to the compensation of individual vested interests, and in that way the result of this Bill will be to take away from the Church £158,000 a year, while the objects to which I have 1162 alluded will receive for some years to come no more than £32,000 a year of that sum.
The Home Secretary made an extraordinary statement last year with regard to the amount which the Church would lose. He said—If the Church could raise £51,338 a year by voluntary subscriptions, she would be in as good a position in the future as before Diseadowment.This is an absolute misrepresentation of the facts. The statement of the Home Secretary was challenged at once by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the result is shown in the correspondence, which was presented to your Lordships' House on the motion of the most rev. Primate opposite. What appeared from that correspondence was that the Home Secretary had made that statement in absolute ignorance of what would be the real figures at the date of Disendowment, and upon figures which related to a date so far ago as 1906. He explained that it was not intended to be in the nature of a statement of the property of the Church of England in Wales before and after Disendowment; but merely, on the one hand, a rough estimate of the probable assets of the Welsh Church founded upon the figures for 1906, and, on the other hand, the liabilities after Disendowment calculated upon the same figure. Yet he did not make those explanations when he made the statement, and the fact is simply this—that he has credited the Government with re-endowing the Church with the sum of £2,000,000 which they were obliged, as I have said, in common justice to reserve as compensation for the vested interests of the Bishops and clergy and other office-holders. The Church may be re-endowed, no doubt, with the whole or part of that amount; but, if so, it will be by the liberality and loyalty of the Bishops and clergy, as was the case in Ireland, and not at all by the bounty of the Government or of Parliament. Further, the Home Secretary credited the Church in future with a revenue of £31,000 a year from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and Queen Anne's bounty. That sum they now receive, but what do they receive it for? They receive it for the increase of the emoluments of poor livings, for endowments to new livings, and for the extension and expansion of the Church. It will have to be devoted, in future, if this Bill becomes law, to the ordinary maintenance of the Church, and therefore 1163 will not be available for the purpose for winch it was hitherto given. It is not fair to credit the Church with that item without placing it on both sides of the account.
I do not want to detain your Lordships further on the provisions of the Bill. The most rev. Primate discussed the course which should be taken by your Lordships now that the Bill is presented to you for the second time. A good deal has been said in another place by those who are described as Liberal Churchmen, who appear to me to act as if they were Liberals first and Churchmen afterwards, blaming those who have advised the Church for counselling opposition to this Bill. Mr. Gladstone said that the Church, and not the Government, is the worst enemy of compromise, and that the violent men have been able to induce the Church to set her face resolutely against the idea. I am always in favour of moderate counsels. I do not myself believe that any great question of this kind can be permanently settled without mutual concession, and for that reason, if compromise were possible, I should gladly advocate it. But for any compromise on this matter it is necessary that those who are opposed on principle to the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church should first accept that principle. I will accept it when the country has pronounced in favour of it, but I will not accept it before. That view was expressed by the most rev. Primate, and I believe that he has the assent, in expressing it, of all who can speak for the Church in England and in Wales. He has shown the difference between the action of your Lordships' House with regard to the Irish Church and the course now suggested to you with regard to the Church in Wales. He has shown that your Lordships then yielded, as you would yield again, to the voice of the people, when that voice had been clearly expressed. But this Bill has never been prominently before the people at all, except in 1895, and then the Government which proposed it were defeated at the polls. It is our simple duty to ask that the opinion of the people should be taken again before the Bill is passed into law.
Nothing has been said definitely by the Government on this point, which was strongly urged by my noble friend who moved the rejection of the Bill. I do not 1164 know whether anything will be said in the course of this debate. But from all the indications of their future proceedings that we have been able to gather, it would seem that it is their intention, if this Bill is rejected to-morrow, to resubmit it to Parliament next spring, to pass it through the House of Commons and send it up here, and when it is rejected again, as I hope it will be, to submit it for the Royal Assent under the Parliament Act. If that course is taken I do not think it will be one of good omen for the future of the Bill. For what will happen? Assuming that this Bill is placed on the Statute Book by such a process as that, it will be felt by every Churchman in England and in Wales, excepting those who are Liberals first and Churchmen afterwards, and possibly even by some of them, to be a grave injustice to the Church. It will be felt to be a measure carried into law, not by constitutional means, but through the violation of the Constitution for which His Majesty's advisers were responsible in 1911.
I do not suppose there will be active resistance. I do not suppose there is any danger of civil war. I do not talk of anything of that kind. But there will be a feeling of injustice in the minds of all Churchmen who have to carry through the various processes connected with this Bill which will certainly delay its action, and I suspect that before 1915 is over His Majesty's Government will find that others besides Nonconformists are capable of some form of passive resistance. Why? Assuming this Bill to be passed into law in the manner described in June, 1914, six months at least must elapse before it can come into operation, and possibly more. It cannot, at any rate, come into force before the beginning of 1915, and during the whole of 1915 it will be known that in a year—by December, 1915—Parliament must be dissolved. Every means will be taken by those who detest the Bill to rouse the country against it, and to ensure the return in the new Parliament of men who will vote for the immediate repeal of this which has throughout been an unpopular measure. We have a promise from the leader of the Unionist Party in another place that if the people of this country showed that they were against the Government he would return to the Church the money of which it had been robbed. I have not the faintest doubt that that promise will be confirmed by my noble 1165 friend who leads the Opposition in this House. If the election goes against the Government, that must mean the immediate repeal of this Bill; and in view of the progress which, in contrast with the depreciatory remarks of the noble and learned Viscount, the Prime Minister has admitted the Church is making in the affections of the people of Wales, in my belief if the measure is once rejected by the country no Government will ever bring it in again. But even if the country accepted the principle of the Bill, it is by no means certain that a new House of Commons would pass it in its present shape. If the policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to Ireland becomes law, there will be fifty Irish Nationalist supporters of this Bill in the new House of Commons less than there are in the present one, and even with the present Government in office, their Church supporters would then be able to insist that the Bill was amended in some of those points in which it deals so unfairly with the Church. But suppose the Government do not pursue this course. Suppose they decide, as I hope wisdom will teach them to decide, to consult the country before this measure is passed into law, what will happen then? If they succeed, they will have their way; they will have settled the question in the way the Irish Church question was settled by the verdict of the country, and nobody can venture to dispute or delay the settlement. If they pass this measure and the country rejects them and their policy, then I venture to say that no one can possibly defend their conduct in passing into law a Bill of which the people will have disapproved.
THE EARL OF POWIS
My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack made a most unwarranted statement that the movement for the prevention of phthisis in the Principality had been conducted entirely by the Nonconformists in Wales, and that the Church had stood aloof from it.
THE EARL OF POWIS
I should be the last to wish to misrepresent the noble Viscount, and I am sorry if I did. He tells me that the movement was mainly and largely conducted by Nonconformists. But does he say that the Church had 1166 nothing to do with it? I am sure he would not say that.
THE EARL OF POWIS
So far from the movement having been conducted mainly and largely by Nonconformists, Nonconformists and the Church in this matter are working hand and glove together, and I do not believe there is a leading Churchman throughout the length and breadth of the Principality who has not supported this movement. Since this measure was in this House in February last I do not think there are many signs of its having been received with any greater favour by the country. The demonstrations which have taken place, demonstrations of unusual site, and the petitions which have been signed by over two million people of this country, and very nearly one-third of the population of Wales, show that feeling has increased against the Bill; and also there are the results of the by-elections, from which the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of this Bill seemed to take such satisfaction to himself. He seemed to consider that the fact that the Government had lost something like 20,000 votes at the recent by-elections was an indication of the popularity of the measures brought forward by His Majesty's Government.
The late Mr. Gladstone, speaking on the question of the separation of Church and State, said that any such measure could not become practical until it had become familiar to the people by long discussion, and that after it had been thoroughly discussed it must receive the approval of the people, and that it could not pass into law until it had received the general assent of the people. My Lords, I venture to ask, now that this Bill has become familiar to the people by discussion, are there any signs that the measure is approved by the people, and are there any signs that it has the general assent of the nation? We have a right to demand that before you, the Government, pass this measure into law you should pause awhile, that you should take the opinion of the people, that you should give the people an opportunity of saying whether this measure meets with their approval and has their general assent. Lord Pontypridd asked how many 1167 times we wished to see this measure submitted to the judgment of the country. I answer that question very briefly—once. I want to see it submitted once and for all. He referred to times when he said it had been before the country, and he referred to the election of 1895. The only time that this subject was prominently before the country to the exclusion of any other subject was in that year, and at that election the Government lost several seats in Wales, and were defeated at the polls.
The noble and learned Viscount who sits upon the Woolsack said to-night that the principle that underlay this Bill was that the Welsh might manage their own spiritual affairs. I venture to put this to the noble Viscount, If the Welsh are to manage their own spiritual affairs will he also agree that the English should manage their own spiritual affairs? The point I put to the noble Viscount is this. If there was an English majority in England who desired to alienate one-third of the property of Nonconformists, would it be right for the Welsh and the Irish and the Scottish Members of Parliament to stand on one side and to say that that was a matter entirely for the English to settle for themselves? If it is not right in the case of England, I cannot understand how it is right in the case of Wales. I venture to ask again, What harm does the Church do to anybody, and what good is this Bill going to do to anybody? That question has been frequently asked, and no answer has been given to it yet. All we are told is that the Nonconformists have grievances. I should be the last to deny that there was a time when the Nonconformists had grievances. There was the burials question, which at one time was a burning question in Wales. That has been settled. In matters of education formerly the clergyman of the Church was supreme in the parish. That was not the fault of the Church, but the fault of the nation. Then the clergyman was ex officio the chairman of the local council or vestry, and he was also at that time frequently an ex officio member of such boards as the boards of guardians and so forth. On most of these bodies Nonconformity was to a great extent not represented. But, my Lords, all those grievances have been done away with, and I am glad to think that most of them have been remedied at the instance of Unionist Governments.
1168 Then we hear remarks about the superior position occupied by the Church in Wales. One of the Welsh Members, speaking in another place, said that the grievance was that the ordinary Welshman and Nonconformist felt that the Church of which he was not a member was placed in a position superior to that of the Church of which he was a member. I never can understand why it is, when these questions are referred to, that the ordinary Welshman is always a Nonconformist and generally a Radical. Referring again to this subject the Welsh Member said that the position of the Churchman was much superior. I ask, in what way is the Church much superior? I suppose to be much superior it must have tremendous privileges which are not possessed by Nonconformists. As far as I am concerned I do not know of any privileges that the Church possesses beyond those possessed by Nonconformists, except the privilege of the Bishops to sit in your Lordships' House. But that is not a privilege peculiar to Wales alone, and I entirely agree with what fell from the noble Marquess when he said that he would welcome the representation of Nonconformist bodies in this House. If the Church of England in Wales has certain privileges it also has certain obligations. It has, amongst other things, to administer to everybody, irrespective of denomination; it has, moreover, to marry all those who seek the ministries of the Church, and it has also to bury anybody.
I noticed that on the Third Reading of this Bill in the House of Commons the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking on the subject of grievances, stated the whole mischief of Establishment. He commenced by quoting an historian, who wrote that when he began to inquire about the clergy he was told that the clergy were good preachers and were converting Methodists right and left. To-night we were told by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that the Nonconformist ministers were shooting ahead of the clergy. You cannot have it both ways. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that that had really been the whole mischief of the State Establishment in Wales, that it had created "a sort of ecclesiastical sheep stealing business." I venture to say that that is an absolute travesty of the fact, and I consider it a base libel upon the clergy of the Established Church. There are many gentlemen who have spoken on 1169 the subject of the position and the work of the Church whose words are appreciated and valued by your Lordships, and I am sure that the statements they have made do not bear out the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I venture to think the late Mr. Gladstone would never have spoken of the Church as a Living and advancing Church if he had known—and he had every opportunity and power of knowing the facts—that the whole occupation of the clergy of the Church in Wales was an ecclesiastical sheep stealing business, and that they were neglecting their proper duties and trying to steal away the members from the Methodist Church.
These grievances, if grievances there be, are all grievances against the Establishment; and since we have heard through the mouthpiece of the representatives of the people of Wales that Wales declines Disestablishment without Disendowment, I venture to ask what becomes of the grievances against Establishment? Then, again, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other night in another place that Wales was asking this in the interests of her own religious life, and he asked, Was she not the most competent to judge? As Wales through her representatives has declined Disestablishment without Disendowment, it follows that it is the judgment of Wales through her representatives that it is for the good of the religious life of Wales that two-thirds of the endowments of the Church should be taken away from her and alienated to secular purposes.
The noble Earl who introduced this Bill said the other night, speaking on the Home Rule Bill, that religious persecution was impossible in these days. I should like to tell him a little of my experience with regard to that subject in Wales. In Montgomeryshire, where I live, there is a small Radical majority on the county council, and it is a well-known fact that no Churchman or Unionist need apply for any appointment. Even the smallest appointments are filled up entirely from political reasons. Then, again, a few years ago there was a revolt in Wales against the Education Act, and the local education authority in Montgomeryshire refused to pay the teachers' salaries in the Church schools and also stopped the orders for coals going into the schools, so that the unfortunate children and teachers were without fires in mid-winter. I venture to 1170 say that that is persecution of a very cruel nature, and it is done by the political Party who say that they are seeking religious liberty.
It is constantly said by the promoters of this Bill that the Bill will stimulate the Church and promote religion, and that is why it is being brought in. It may stimulate noble Lords opposite to voluntarily give up some of this world's goods, but I cannot see how it is going to stimulate the religion of other people, or do any good to the souls of others, by taking away the property which belongs to them. Is it to stimulate the Church and to stimulate religion that you propose to dismember our Church, to rob our Bishops, to rob our clergy, to rob the poor of the rights which they have to the ministrations of the clergy, and, moreover, to rob the unfortunate curates, leaving them without a penny? That I think is the meanest proviso in the whole of what the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of St. Davids has called "this mean little Bill." There was an excuse given to us for that by the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of the Bill. He told us last February that the curates of the Established Church in Wales were to go without any compensation at all because there were a certain number of instances of abuse in the case of the Irish Church. I must say that it is a confession of absolute incompetence to say that it is impossible for the Government to frame a clause in this Bill which would prevent abuse in a case of that sort.
The Government say this is a question which the Welsh people ought to decide for themselves. Is the Bill just? Is that a question which you ought to shelve on to anybody else? Have you any right to ask somebody else to decide that question for you? If you desire it, there is only one way in which you can shirk the responsibility of answering that question, and that is by consulting the country. If you are prepared to consult the country, well and good. We are told that the English do not understand Welsh religious problems. I think there is one thing which few Englishmen can understand, and that is the desire and the determination of Welsh politicians to take away from the Church the funds to which she is lawfully entitled, and which she is admittedly making good use of, in order to hand them over to secular purposes. I beg to support the noble Marquess's Amendment.
§ [The sitting was suspended at eight o'clock and resumed at nine o'clock.]
§ LORD CRAWSHAW
My Lords, in addressing your Lordships' House for the first time, I must ask for your kind indulgence for any shortcomings on my part. My excuse for inflicting my opinions upon you is that I have attended a good many meetings in the country, and I know the strong feeling felt at those meetings. In addition to that, I have spent most of my life in Lancashire amongst very large bodies of Nonconformists—in fact, I might almost say in the heart of Nonconformity—and I am very glad to be able to testify here to the good feeling which exists between those bodies and the Church. That good feeling is evidenced on occasions when we have special services, and it is most gratifying and pleasing to see amongst the congregations in our churches many representatives of Nonconformist bodies who have come there to help the Church, and whom representatives of the Church on their side will go to help. Now, my Lords, if this Bill passes, causing as it will a deep feeling of wrong done, and reacting as that wrong will on the doers, how can we expect that good feeling to continue—a feeling which is so much desired?
The Government are supposed to be acting in the name and on behalf of the Nonconformists, not only in Wales, but also in other parts of the country. I have frequently stated, and I state here again, that although many Nonconformists with whom I have come in contact are strongly in favour of Disestablishment, and some are in favour of Disestablishment and Disendowment but less in favour of Disendowment than of Disestablishment, I do not believe that the Nonconformists of this country either meant or mean to mete out the harsh measures which the provisions of this Bill will entail upon the Church. I do not believe that they wish to cripple the good work which the Church is doing in Wales or anywhere else, because in that good work they have so very much in common, and in the good fruits so great a share. The position of the Government, in my humble opinion, is that they are in the hands and supporting the views of an extreme section of their Party, and legislation based upon the extreme views of any section of a Party in the State is not conducive to the general welfare of the country.
1172 I saw the other day some remarks of the noble Earl who has charge of this Bill. The noble Earl made them at a meeting at Beckenham so late as July 12 last. He said that the terms of Disendowment in this Bill were far more generous and liberal than those in the Irish Disestablishment Bill. I should have thought that that statement by this time of day had been either proved or discarded, and I cannot see how the noble Earl can substantiate it. I should think that by this time it would be beyond controversy. But be that as it may, we can ourselves form an opinion and an estimate of the liberality and generosity of the provisions of the Welsh Disestablishment and Disendowment Bill when we see 600 Welsh curates deprived of their living without any compensation. In passing, I would say that the last time this Bill was debated in this House the noble Earl gave as a reason that the numbers of the Irish curates had been increased after the date of the passing of the Irish Bill and before the date of compensation. I thought that that was hardly very relevant to the position of the Welsh curates, but, in any case, in addition to the unfortunate position of the curates, we see the glebe taken away from the Church people of Wales, and the rights of Welsh Church people in their churchyards reduced simply to a wayleave over land which they have for centuries considered their own to the Church of their fathers and to the graves of their dead. We also see £158,000 a year taken from the Church, and, worse still in the opinion of many of us, taken from religious purposes for which it was held in trust. These are the plain, bald facts, and in my opinion they do not sound very well.
But what adds a further sting to this Bill and seems to increase its injustice is the fact that this appropriation of Church property is not based on any finding of an impartial tribunal appointed to investigate what property the Church is entitled to and what property she is not—a finding which the country would no doubt have accepted, and which would have been some justification for the taking away of property and rights. But the basis of this appropriation is simply an arbitrary choice of a date, 1662. I would ask, and I think reasonably, why the wishes of a benefactor in 1662 should be respected and the wishes of a benefactor in 1661 disregarded. Well may we see some reluctance on the part of the institutions to which this money is proposed to be given 1173 to accept money received from such sources; and I would say, in conclusion, that if this Bill is to be forced through and put on the Statute Book I would personally far sooner see the money of which the Church is to be deprived divided fairly between all denominations than that it should go forth as the will of this country and the will of this House that discouragement should be given to any religious endeavour, whether that endeavour comes from our churches or our chapels.
§ LORD EVERSLEY
My Lords, many of the speeches delivered to-night, and still more those delivered last session, against this Bill have borne a most striking resemblance to the speeches made 44 years ago when the Bill for the Disestablishment of the Irish Church was under discussion in your Lordships' House. I think it is probable that not more than six or seven of your Lordships heard those debates. I myself heard most of them from the Bar of the House. I was a humble member of the Government which carried that great Act, and I believe I am the only survivor now in Parliament of that Government except the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition in this House. In these circumstances I hope I may be allowed to say a few words in recollection of those debates, and also as showing the bearing of the Irish Church Act upon the present Bill.
The most memorable of the speeches on the occasion I refer to was that of Dr. Magee, Bishop of Peterborough. It was a splendid bit of invective, and it carried away the House for the time. He denounced the Bill before the House in the most unmeasured language. He said it was an act of injustice, that it was cruel, harsh and niggardly. He denied that the verdict of the electors had been given on any such scheme. He predicted that it would add to the religious rancour in Ireland, instead of allaying it. His language, however, was moderate compared with that of the Irish Prelates. There was a speech made by the Archbishop of Armagh, in which he predicted that if the Bill passed into law the Church people of Ireland would have only two alternatives before them—apostasy or expatriation. He said all those who had means would leave Ireland and all others would fall under the influence of Rome and become Papists. Dr. Alexander, the Bishop of Derry, one of the 1174 most saintly Bishops who ever held a See in Ireland, spoke in very much the same strain, and said the Bill would leave the Church unprovided for after the death of the existing clergy. He said it "would bring about an atheistical nation under the re-dominion of a Papal Legate and stamped with undying hostility to the Protestant religion."
Well, your Lordships at that time were not alarmed by those speeches, but passed the Bill, and we now know the results of that great measure. I think everybody must admit that none of the predictions of the Bishops and others were fulfilled, and that the Act has been carried out with a success which the framers of it hardly ventured to predict. One of the principal advantages of the Act has been that the Church of Ireland has found itself freed from the shackles of the State, and has been enabled in consequence to make most important reforms in connection with the Church, especially as regards the appointment and retirement of its clergy. It has also brought about very important changes in the formularies of the Church—changes which were long needed. There is abundant testimony from high authorities in the Irish Church—men who knew what was the state of things before the Act was passed, and who could compare the Church under its new conditions and estimate the value of the changes which had taken place. There is especially the charge to his clergy by the late Lord Plunket when Archbishop of Dublin. Lord Plunket had been one of those Bishops who most strongly opposed the Act when it was passed, but after 25 years' experience of the new order of things he gave an opinion distinctly favourable to the measure. After giving a résumé of the gains and losses to the Church after the Disestablishment Act, he said:When I try to hold the balance evenly and to weigh the losses and the gains as a whole, I say boldly and without reserve that the gain outweighs the loss.Another high authority upon the subject—perhaps even higher in some respects—is Dr. Traill, the present Provost of Trinity College. Dr. Traill has been the leading man on the representative body of the Church of Ireland from the time of Disestablishment up to the present time. In a statement which he made in a report of the representative body three years ago he 1175 used this language which I think your Lordships will agree is very remarkable—Much spiritual advantage has accrued to members of the Church by the Act. of 1869 from their being, as it were, forced to realise what are the duties of a Church and its members, and from the energy which was called out, not only to reconstruct the financial basis of the Church but to reorganise its constitution and to use its freedom to revise its formularies so as to bring them in several important matters into harmony with the requirements of the present day. This cannot be done in the case of an Established Church unless through the intervention of a Parliament in which its enemies have a powerful if not a preponderating influence.The Church found no difficulty in reconstituting itself. It accepted the commutation scheme which was the great invention of Mr. Gladstone. The laity came forward with great generosity, with the result that the Church has been carried on in every way as well as it was before the change.
In view of these remarkable results in the case of the Irish Church I would venture to ask your Lordships whether there is any reason whatever to be alarmed at the Bill before us. The conditions of the Welsh Church are practically identical with the conditions of the Irish Church before Disestablishment. The Church is the Church of the small minority of the people of Wales. It is the Church of the rich as against the Churches of the poor. Endowments originally intended for the benefit of the whole people of Wales have become practically the appanage of a sect. There are grave difficulties in the way of collection of tithes, and there are political grievances of a long standing character. The Welsh people for eleven Parliaments have sent enormous majorities of their representatives to the House of Commons asking for this measure.
It is said by some people that the financial scheme of the Bill before us is less generous than that of the Irish Act of 1869. I venture to submit that there is no foundation whatever for the statement. It is my firm belief that the financial scheme is distinctly more generous in its working out than was the scheme of the Irish Act. Roughly speaking, it may be said that the capitalised value of the endowments of the Irish Church was about £16,000,000, and about half—£8,000,000—remained to 1176 the Church after Disestablishment, chiefly in the form of the commutation of the life incomes and with the small addition of the endowments made to the Church before the Reformation, and the other half was devoted to secular purposes under the Act.
THE LORD BISHOP OF ST. ASAPH
May I ask the noble Lord whether there was not a bonus of 12 per cent.?
§ LORD EVERSLEY
I include the 12 per cent. in the endowments of the Church. The £8,000,000 which I mention included that. The 12 per cent., I think, was secured by Amendments in the House of Lords. But practically half of the endowments remained to the Church after Disendowment and the other half was devoted to secular purposes. In the case of the Welsh Church, so far as I can see, the actual value of the existing endowments comes to about £7,500,000, of which about £5,000,000 will remain to the Church in the shape of commutation of the life interests of its clergy and other endowments and about £2,500,000 will go to secular purposes. That proportion, therefore, is a great deal better than in the case of the Irish Church. I ought to say that, besides this £5,000,000, the Bill authorises the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and Queen Anne's Bounty to contribute £31,000 a year to the Welsh Church out of their funds. This was no part of the endowments of the Church. It is rather an expectation arising from the average of past grants of these bodies for the endowment of poor livings.
THE LORD BISHOP OF BANGOR
The amount for commutation is £2,000,000. Does the noble Lord say that when we receive that £2,000,000 we are going to receive £3,500,000 from some other source?
§ LORD EVERSLEY
I say that of the £7,500,000, £5,000,000 goes to the Church for the commutation of life interest and for endowments, and about £2,500,000 will be devoted to secular purposes. Besides the £5,000,000 there is a provision that £31,000 a year may be contributed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and Queen Anne's Bounty to the Church out of the funds of those two bodies. That 1177 is, of course, merely a permissive power; but everyone understands perfectly well that this contribution will be made. For my part I do not see why it should not be made obligatory instead of permissive. Assuming that this £31,000 a year is to be taken into consideration as well as the actual endowments, I think Mr. McKenna is perfectly right in saying that it will only be necessary for the Church body after Disestablishment to raise an annual sum of £51,000 in order to make up the difference. The Irish Church had to raise something like £200,000 for the purpose of making up the difference; whereas the Welsh Church will only have to raise £51,000 a year, which seems a very small sum. I know there are not a few members in this House who think that the commutation scheme has been unfairly dealt with and is not such as the Church body can accept. Lord St. Aldwyn last year lent his great financial authority to this proposition; and said he could not advise the Welsh Church to accept that commutation scheme. For my part, having given great attention to the subject, I think that the Welsh Church would be extremely unwise if they did not accept this commutation scheme. I believe it is framed on a perfectly fair financial basis, and worthy in every way of their consideration.
I may mention, in passing, that I consider myself in some degree responsible for the commutation scheme. When the Welsh Church Bill was first laid before the House of Commons I observed that it contained no provision to that effect, and recollecting well how important in the case of the Irish Church was the commutation scheme, it seemed to me it would be very unfair to the Welsh Church if these clauses should not be inserted. I therefore wrote to Mr. W. G. C. Gladstone, the present Member for Kilmarnock, suggesting to him that he should move in the House of Commons clauses of this kind. I represented to him that I thought it would come with great force from the descendant of Mr. Gladstone, who was responsible for the original Irish Act, if he were to move such clauses. In company with a Bishop whom I see on the Episcopal Bench, I had later an interview with Mr. W. G. C. Gladstone, and we persuaded him to undertake this matter and to move these clauses in the House of Commons, which he did, with the great success which we see in the Bill.
1178 If the clauses were not fair in their character, if the calculation on which the commutation scheme is to be based was not a fair one, I should not for a moment have hesitated to have stated so in public and to have advocated a change. But it is my confident belief that the scheme is founded upon a fair, reasonable, and good financial basis, and is eminently worthy of the acceptance of the great Church body if this Bill comes into operation. It has been complained that the scheme is based upon a 3½ per cent. basis instead of a 3 per cent. basis, but it would be easy enough nowadays for the Welsh Church body to invest its money at an even better rate than 3½ per cent. There is no obligation to invest this money in Consols, but at the present price of Consols and other trustee investments there can be no doubt whatever that the Church body will be able to invest its money well—probably at 4 per cent.; certainly at much over 3½ per cent. In such case the scheme of commutation will in every way be most favourable to the Church. My own belief, looking at the financial clauses all round, is that they are most favourable to the Church in Wales—much more favourable even than the scheme of the Irish Act was to the Irish Church.
My confident belief is that if this Bill passes all the advantages which have accrued to the Irish Church and of which I have spoken will similarly accrue to the Welsh Church. The Welsh Church, freed from the shackles of the State, will be able to carry out various most necessary reforms which it is not possible to undertake in the present state of things; it will be able to make changes in its, formularies which have long been desired by many people in that Church; it will be in a better position to co-operate with other religious bodies in Wales, because there no longer will there be political grievances to come between them; it will be able in many respects to maintain its position even better than it now is; and lastly, and even more important, there will be a set back to the spirit of Sacerdotalism which in my opinion is the bane of all the Established Churches while the clergy are independent of the laity.
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
My Lords, I do not know that the remarks of the noble Lord who has just sat down call for any special comment from me. The only 1179 observation I would make about them is that I am at a loss to understand what the history of the Disestablishment of the Irish Church has to do with the question now before your Lordships' House, as to whether this is a Bill which ought to be passed into law before it has been referred to the opinion of the electors of the country. No one disputes that ill-treatment and injustice may conduce to our spiritual and moral improvement; but the fact that it does so does not alter the injustice or the evil of the treatment, and because it pleases Almighty God to bring good out of evil it does not make less the guilt of those who perpetrate that evil.
We have this evening listened to a very interesting discussion on the interference of the Norman, Plantagenet and Tudor Kings in the affairs of the Church of England. The noble and learned Viscount who occupies the Woolsack has also given us his version of the origin of Nonconformity in Wales, which he attributes to the ideal aspirations of Welshmen and to the Act of Uniformity of 1662. I may remark, in passing, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer attributes the rise of Nonconformity in Wales to the Whig Bishops who were sent down to Wales in order to counteract the Jacobite tendencies of the clergy and the laity after the Revolution. I merely call your Lordships' attention to these two opinions; the Lord Chancellor and the Chancellor of the Exchequer may settle the matter between themselves. Then the noble Viscount on the Woolsack gave us an interesting account of the efforts Nonconformists have made in Wales on behalf of education, which I for one do not feel in the least called upon to dispute. He gave us an account of secondary education in Wales, interspersed with remarks about the difference between theological colleges and other educational institutions in Wales. He also made a profession of faith on his own part in Erastian principles in regard to which the most rev. Primate has already remarked upon its irrelevancy. In short, the noble Viscount appeared to me to say a great many things which, interesting as they might be on another occasion, had nothing whatever to do with the question before this House. That question, as I have already said, is whether this is a Bill which ought to be passed under the Parliament Act before 1180 it has been submitted to the opinion of the electors of this country.
For the very few moments I wish to detain the House I desire to address myself to that question and to that question only. What does this Bill do? First of all, it is a Bill for the severance of a relation that has existed between the State and the Church in Wales for more than 1,000 years, and which was in full vigour before the British Parliament existed. In the next place, it has been advocated, as has already been observed by various speakers this evening, not only by one but by at least four members of the Cabinet as an instalment of a larger measure which is to disestablish and disendow the whole Church of England. In the third place, as the most rev. Primate has pointed out, it is a Bill which will be looked upon abroad, as at home, as a step towards the abandonment of the recognition of the Christian religion on the part of a country which has hitherto been concerned to maintain its Christian character, and that at a time when by universal consent the need of Christianity in the general interests of society was never more apparent than it is to-day.
I am not concerned to say at this moment whether the Home Rule Bill was really before the constituencies at the last General Election or not; but what I do say without fear of contradiction is that the issues involved in this Bill have never been submitted to the electors of this country; and I appeal to your Lordships whether any one, apart from political considerations, would not, whatever his opinion of the Bill may be, at once say that if ever there was a question upon which the country had a right to be consulted it was such a question as this.
I pass on for a few moments to consider the two main features of the Bill. Under the Disestablishment clauses, to which the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, has so admirably referred this evening, the Bill professes to free the Church from State interference and control. In reality it interferes with the constitution of the Provincial Synod of Canterbury. It expels four of the oldest Sees belonging to the Province of Canterbury, with their Bishops and clergy, from the Synod of the Province; and it claims the right—and this is a point to which I do not think Lord 1181 St. Aldwyn referred this evening—to pronounce upon the brand new constitution which the dioceses so expelled are to be compelled to set up on pain of forfeiting such relics of their own property as the Government is willing to leave to them. I venture to say that no Government has ever attempted to deal with any religious community as this Government proposes to deal with the Church of England. The Bill, by its Disestablishment clauses, attacks the Church's spiritual rights and enslaves the Church under the pretence of freeing it from State control. I will ask the members of the Government one plain question. Would they dare to make such proposals in regard to the Established Church in Scotland? They know very well that they would not dare to do so, because they know too well the answer that would be made to them. I ask them, then, how they dare to make such a proposal in regard to the Church of England.
I pass on to one or two aspects of the Disendowment clauses. The exact figures will, I understand, be ascertained in the course of the autumn, but meanwhile I am informed, and I believe the statement is fairly accurate, that if the provisions of this Bill were applied to the Church in England it would deprive every parish in England of about four-fifths of its endowment, and would reduce the income of every incumbent to about 4s. 6d. in the pound. I ask again, Why is such a spoliation to be attempted in Wales? Will anybody pretend that a Bill which devotes to secular purposes funds given for spiritual purposes—funds which are not excessive, and which, on the admission of the Prime Minister himself, are being excellently applied—is a measure which apart from the exigencies of Party politics any honest man who cares for the welfare of religion would wish to support? I do not think anybody would pretend that. I am aware that the noble Earl who has moved the Second Reading of this Bill has told us, in a speech to which allusion has already been made, that the measure has really been brought in by the Government for the advantage of the Church. I should like to repeat to the noble Earl and to your Lordships' House what I heard only the other day at Huddersfield, the centre of a very Radical part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, at a great demonstration to protest against this Bill which in numbers almost rivalled that of Hyde 1182 Park a few weeks ago. It certainly rivalled the London demonstration in enthusiasm, and the numbers who desired to attend it were so great that the railways were not able to convey all the people who wished to come. The speaker was a typical Yorkshireman, and this is what he said—They tell me that down in London they say this Bill is for the benefit of the Church. That may be a good enough argument for the House of Commons, but I should like to see any one come up here and tell us Yorkshiremen that it is for my advantage, or for the advantage of any one to be deprived of half his goods. If they come and tell us that, we will very soon show them what we think of them and their arguments.The Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us—and he takes another ground than that taken by the noble Earl opposite—that this Bill is to be defended on the plea that it is a measure to Undo the injustice of having forced an alien religion upon the Welsh people. I would ask, Do the petitions to which the most rev. Primate has already alluded this evening—petitions which in the case of Wales alone have been signed by one-third of all the adult population, and the innumerable meetings to protest against this Bill which have been held in every part of England in the most Radical centres, meetings both enthusiastic and overflowing, do all these things look as if in England and Wales there is any feeling that an alien religion has been forced on the unhappy Welsh people? The noble Viscount who sits on the Woolsack said this evening that the noble Marquess who has moved the Amendment to this Bill was no good judge of the religious opinions of the country, because he is so earnest in his antagonism to the Bill. I would ask the noble Viscount whether the various educational proposals made by the present Government, which have all been doomed to failure, might not encourage the suspicion that the Government are not altogether free from the possibility of making mistakes where the religious principles of this country are at stake. I say without fear of contradiction that throughout the length and breadth of the country this Bill, as Lord St. Aldwyn has said, is detested. I am quite satisfied that the Government have no perception of the depth and strength of the feeling that the measure has elicited against it. There is, on the other hand, no liking and no enthusiasm for it, and even those who support it 1183 are half ashamed of it and wish it were well out of the way.
The people of England do not forget how this Bill is being passed. They remember its history. They remember, as Lord St. Aldwyn has said this evening, that had it not been for the votes of Irish Members in the House of Commons this Bill would have died in that House more than once. They remember that under the Home Rule Bill the Irish Members are not allowed to endow or to disendow, to establish or to disestablish, a Church. They feel it to be a monstrous thing that any English Government should use the votes of these same Irish Members to help them to disendow and disestablish the Church of England in Wales.
I would ask the Government very seriously what possible harm it could do to any one if this Bill were postponed until after the next General Election? Would the country be ruined because the relation which has existed between Church and State for over 1,000 years lasted a couple of years longer? Is there any one who could really regret that the poor Welsh clergy should be allowed to retain their stipends for another twelve months? Would it be the end of the world if the county associations, the libraries, the washhouses, were deprived of the spoils of the Church for another twelve months? Is there any good reason that can be brought forward on behalf of passing such a Bill as this under the Parliament Act?
There is no good reason, apart from Party political considerations, why the Amendment proposed by the noble Marquess should not be accepted by His Majesty's Government. There are many reasons, grave and weighty, why this Bill should not be brought under the operation of the Parliament Act. There is one reason so grave and so weighty that I am constrained to mention it on this occasion and to commend it to the attention of your Lordships' House, and more especially to the attention of His Majesty's Government. In view of the feeling which exists in the country against this Bill and in view of the absence of any feeling in favour of it, I ask your Lordships in all seriousness whether there is any one, who has any 1184 sense of what is due to the Crown and of what is incumbent upon him as a loyal subject of His Majesty the King, who would think it consistent with his duty to ask the King to give his assent to such a measure as this before it has been submitted to the opinion of the country. To ask the King's assent to such a Bill, in the estimation of thousands of His Majesty's subjects, will be to make the King a party to a measure which, as Lord St. Aldwyn has reminded us, a great portion of the people abhor and believe to be mischievous to the best interests of the country, and which they think involves a breach of solemn obligations taken to themselves at the most solemn moment of the King's life. They do not ask that the King should reject the Bill, but they do ask—and I have experience of it in every part of the country—that he should be well assured that his subjects wish the Bill to pass before he is asked to assent to such a measure. I earnestly entreat His Majesty's Government, as loyal subjects and faithful servants of the Crown, not to embark on a course which is fraught with such serious danger to all those highest interests which all loyal subjects of the Crown and faithful servants of the King are bound to guard and protect with all their strength.
THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD
My Lords, as regards the merits or demerits of the Bill before the House, I imagine that every one of your Lordships has already made up his mind, so that our debate can only, so far as argument is concerned, be looked upon as a debate upon a foregone conclusion. Consequently I do not propose to detain your Lordships with many words on the merits of the Bill. My object in venturing to intrude for a minute or two is to ask, or, rather, to appeal to, the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition in this House to consider the wisdom of giving the Bill a Second Reading and going into Committee upon it. You naturally go, in your own language, into Committee with a view to "removing the blemishes and the undesirable features" of the Bill. I venture to think that this would be a wise policy on the present occasion, considering the point to which we have come in the history and the fortunes of this Bill.
With regard to the actual Amendment before the House, I confess that I could 1185 hardly have imagined anything more unhappy in form. Surely, my Lords, when we consider the circumstances of the case this Amendment amounts to an abnegation of your legislative functions; it amounts, in fact, to letting the case of this Bill go by default; and surely in asking for an appeal to the country the Amendment assumes that the repeatedly expressed desire of the people of Wales is to be disregarded. I am well aware that most of your Lordships look upon this as a question which concerns the whole of England, and in which Wales has no claim to have a special voice; but when we consider it dispassionately this question of the regulation of their own religious life is, above all things, the kind of question which any integral part of the nation has a just claim to settle for itself. For my own part I consider this Bill to be an act of national justice and an act, if anything, too long delayed. I hold that in this matter it is the people of Wales who are primarily and chiefly concerned, and that it is not a case in which we are justified in over-ruling the general sentiment of the people themselves.
This somewhat new-born desire on the part of your Lordships to submit to the will of the people really means a desire to over-ride the opinion of Wales by the opinion of other parts of the United Kingdom, and I cannot look upon that as an entirely fair proceeding towards the people of Wales. It needs no repetition that the sentiments of Wales have for the last half century or more been strongly expressed in favour of some such Bill as this; the constitutional representatives of the Welsh people have invariably asked for it by a majority of something like ten to one; and I could not myself feel able to justify what would be my own action if I were to oppose this Bill. I doubt whether your Lordships would have ventured to apply the same method of treatment to the people of Scotland as you are now proposing to apply to the people of Wales, and I do not see what higher claim the people of Scotland have in a matter of this kind 'than the people of Wales. I will not venture to argue—it has been argued over and over again in this House—the claim of the Welsh people to a national character. My immediate object, as I have said, is to appeal to the noble Marquess opposite and those who follow him to give this Bill a Second Reading, and then to secure 1186 by negotiation such reasonable Amendments as they are able to secure.
I could have wished that this appeal had been made by a far more authoritative voice than my own. I had, indeed, indulged a hope that the most rev. Primate, supported by the Bishops, who, like himself, disapprove of this Bill, would have felt able to make this appeal to the noble Marquess. If the representatives of the Church had done this, if they had first of all made their own earnest and strong protest against the Bill according to their conscience and had then deprecated the sort of demonstrations which we in the provinces are suffering from at the present time, I venture with all respect to say that I think it would have been a more excellent way; and I even go so far as to think that the leaders of our Church have lost a great opportunity in this respect. It would have been indeed a noble page of English Church history for an historian to write if he could have said that we Bishops, protesting against the Bill in the main, most of us, and earnestly objecting to it, had still deprecated the kind of useless and harmful propaganda that is going on all over the country, and had said to those Church people, "Notwithstanding all our objections to this legislation, let us remember that the function of the Church is a moral and spiritual function, and that our business is to do our utmost to set forward peace and goodwill among all Christian people."
What are these demonstrations of which we hear so much likely to produce? They are absolutely useless as regards any effect on the fortunes of the Bill. They consequently degenerate into a type of political Party agitation, and are harmful in the life of the nation because of the trail of consequences they leave behind them in the increased antagonism, in the ill will, in the misunderstandings and prejudices, and in the bitterness of feeling created. Surely, my Lords, it would be a great gain to the life of the people if we could put an end to this kind of hybrid agitation—semi-political and semi-ecclesiastical—with all its consequences, embittering consequences, on the common life of the people. These demonstrations —I speak only of such as I know something of—are not in themselves very imposing. They largely consist of persons who remind 1187 us in some degree of those thousands who assembled in Ephesus on a famous occasion as worshippers of the great goddess Diana —" they know not wherefore they are come together." There are large constituent portions of these demonstrations of which that might be truly said. I cannot conceive anything which is more likely to degrade the spirit of the common religious life of the country than the continuance of this useless agitation; and that is why, my Lords, I venture to appeal to you in the hope that you may take this matter in hand in Committee so as to bring this agitation to a speedy close.
There are various advantages which I venture to think would follow from that course. As I have said, it would relieve the life of the country from a very mischievous influence. These demonstrations give occasion for much excited and misleading rhetoric. We hear on these platforms a great deal said as to the disastrous consequences that are to follow from the dismemberment of the Church. I venture to think that any sober-minded man, thinking of the matter, would consider that to apply the term "dismemberment" to the separation proposed is an entire misuse of language. Dismemberment surely implies the destruction or the death, of one or both portions of the dismembered body, unless, indeed, it be in some very low organism. So that, however much we may regret the necessity of separating the Welsh Church from the English Church, it is an entire misapplication of terms to speak of it as "dismemberment" of the Church. But that is part of the misleading rhetoric to which our people are exposed.
Then, again, we hear a great deal—we still hear it I am sorry to say—about the Disendowment proposals of this Bill being "sacrilegious" in their character, and a "robbery of God." Now, my Lords, I had hoped that language of this kind would have disappeared from our platforms long ago. I could hardly imagine any one having been familiar with what was said by Bishop Thirlwall in this House more than forty years ago, ever again repeating such an argument as this, that the proposals of a Bill like the one before us amounted to robbery of God. But these expressions are still heard on our platforms, and still, I fear, used by some members of this House. Therefore, my Lords, I will ask your indulgence while I quote 1188 the language which Bishop Thirlwall used on this subject in this House on the occasion of the Irish Church debate; and in doing so I may, I hope, refer for a moment to the language of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack who described the Bishop in terms which could hardly have been applied, I venture to think, to any other Bishop within the memory of any of us. I venture to quote his language as that of a man whom I, at all events, look upon as the most illustrious Bishop who has sat upon these benches within the memory of any of us. He said—The word 'sacrilege' has been heard very often of late, and I must say its use reminds me of some instructive passages in the history of the early Christian Church. The cry of sacrilege was raised against St. Ambrose, it was raised by the Arians, and on what ground was it raised? Because St. Ambrose had sold the sacred vessels of the Church of Milan to apply the proceeds to the profane purpose of ransoming prisoners who had fallen into the hands of the Goths. In my opinion that was not the least meritorious or the least holy act of that holy man's life. And what does it imply?And here is the point where the Bishop's words apply to our present case—It implies that in the opinion of one who was undoubtedly a very sincere Christian and not at all a low Churchman, circumstances might arise in which Church property, even while it continued to be capable of serving its original purpose, might be rightly and fitly diverted to another and wholly different use. I am not going to say here that in this ease such circumstances have arisen, but what I do say is this, that the possibility of such circumstances arising, if that be admitted, at once transfers the question to the broad ground of general expediency and common utility. It shows that such expressions as 'sacrilege' and 'robbery of God' applied to this subject are as irrelevant and misapplied as they are irritating and offensive. There may be an error of judgment in the estimate of the circumstances, in the calculation of results, and the comparison of advantages, but there is no fair room for the imputation of a sin or a crime.I venture to think, my Lords, that words of that kind are golden words which should be remembered by all those who take part in this controversy; and, as regards the policy which I venture to advocate, I feel that it has the advantage not only of bringing this unhappy controversy which is debasing our religious life to a speedy end, but also of making the Bill a better Bill.
I wonder if every member of the House who is prepared to support the Amendment before us has really weighed this matter, and realises that as a matter of fact by 1189 refusing a Second Reading and by robbing yourselves of the opportunity of amending the Bill you are depriving the Church of Wales of the opportunity of getting some advantages which from your point of view it is your plain duty to endeavour to get for it; because if we decline to take advantage of the opportunity offered to us to-day I think noble Lords will generally agree that next year it will be too late. I have little doubt that His Majesty's Government, if approached with reasonable Amendments, would be ready to make some further concessions in order to have done with this controversy once for all. Although I myself firmly believe that it is in the main a thoroughly just Bill, a reasonable and even a generous Bill, yet there are certain Amendments which, if I had the opportunity, I should very much like to propose, and they are, I believe, Amendments which would commend themselves to the general opinion of the opposite side of the House. One in particular I should certainly like to see. I have no great sympathy with the outcry that is raised as to secularising funds which were given for religious purposes. I have no great sympathy with the argument as it is put forward continually, because there is no distinct and definitely ordained line between religious and secular purposes—the line is a varying line from generation to generation and according to circumstances, and the real test of the right use of all such funds as are entrusted to the Church is whether the use on the whole is the most beneficent use to which they could be put. But still for my own part I should very much prefer to have the possibility of endeavouring to introduce such an Amendment as this, that all the funds transferred by the Bill should be allocated to the representative bodies of the various religious denominations in proportion to the number of their adherents in Wales for their own religious purposes, and that they should be so allocated to every denomination which applied for them, and any such funds for which no application was made should be applied to the better education of poor and meritorious students.
I venture to mention this as one of the Amendments I should like to see introduced. But, as I have said, if your Lordships determine to have no Committee stage, yon deliberately—no doubt for what you feel to be high reasons of policy, but it 1190 seems to me to be very like a gamble with the uncertain future—your Lordships deliberately cut off the disestablished Church in Wales from the prospect of some further benefit which it might have derived by the other policy. Therefore I venture very earnestly, though I fear hopelessly, to appeal to the noble Marquess to adopt this policy, which, I venture to think, is the wiser, because to reject the Bill is, in fact, to abnegate your share in the legislation of the country; it is of the nature of a suicidal act; and it also deprives the people, in whose cause you are pleading throughout the whole of this debate, of some benefits which they might otherwise have obtained; whereas, if you adopt the policy I suggest, which I might venture to call a policy of common sense in political matters, you will at any rate have endeavoured to get all the concessions which were obtainable for the benefit of the Church, and you will earn the gratitude of the Church people of Wales and the respect of the nation.
THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
My Lords, it would be very unwelcome to myself personally, and I think it would be rather unseemly if I, following the right rev. Prelate who has just sat down, entered into any kind of altercation with him. The Bishop has high and generous ideals, but I do not know whether he is fortunate in the kind of way in which he tries to persuade people with regard to the conclusions that he would desire to arrive at. I think his speech this evening bristled with illustrations of that point. I doubt if there is any one who would be, more ready to fall in with the provisions of this Bill because St. Ambrose sold the plate of the Church of Milan for the ransom of the poor. The condition of dissention which we have throughout the country is one which we, like the Bishop of Hereford, deprecate. The waters, no doubt, are fouled; but since the time when the wolf and the lamb debated on that subject I doubt if there has been any stronger instance of putting the burden on the wrong shoulders. The right rev. Prelate says that all these meetings, and so on, are demonstrations of the wrong-headedness of Churchmen. I am making, I hope, respectful and gentle criticism; but if what my friends from the North tell me is at all true, I think that the Bishop, if he went up and faced 1191 some of those gatherings of Churchmen—Churchmen not of one political complexion alone—would receive some criticism which would not be at all respectful and quite the reverse of gentle.
As regards what the Bishop of Hereford has said I will only add this remark, to which I hope he will not take any exception, for it is only a matter of fact. He knows perfectly well, and we all know perfectly well, that if the noble Marquess opposite responded to his appeal and we joined in his earnest request to the Government for reconsideration, the policy of concurrent endowment which he recommended, and about which I have great sympathy with him, is a policy from which they have absolutely shut themselves off and been absolutely shut off by those with whom they act. It is very difficult to speak at all at this stage upon this matter. Yet I feel that perhaps there is one question which really lies at the back of the whole thing, about which, even at this stage, it might be worth while to say something. I mean the question, why, after all, is this being done? What is the root motive? What is the mainspring of the whole thing? We see a Bill the effects of which are in the highest degree harsh. This Bill gives one rather the impression one would have if one saw sonic weak and feeble creature in the hands, or in the claws, of something far more powerful than itself. It is a Bill which has certainly shown an extraordinary power of creating hostility so I think we are justified in asking, after all, why is it being promoted? I see my noble friend Lord St. Davids making notes, and he is competent to speak. I suppose he would say that we should all agree that the impulse of this Bill comes from Wales. He will say "quite right; it ought to do so." It is certainly not the ease that even that force which we sometimes speak of as Liberationism in England, or in Scotland, would have any power to produce a Bill of this kind. It is, I think, certainly true that those large bodies of opinion behind the Government which desire social and economic reform can hardly be altogether glad to see the time of Parliament and the strength of the Government consumed in tins crusade; and, perhaps I speculate too far, but I should have doubted whether it was possible to imagine that the Government itself, if it were perfectly free in the matter, would, in all the range of 1192 subjects which require legislation, have chosen this thing to do.
We have had to-night a very impressive discourse, if I may respectfully make that comment, from the Woolsack. Like all idealists, the noble and learned Viscount, if I may say so, seemed at times to be leaving earth rather behind him, and drawing a picture in which the lights were very high and some very pertinent facts were left in the shadow. I could not help feeling, for example, that "a diminutive body" was hardly the way of describing a Church which has confessedly a third part of the population of Wales, any more than "a great and powerful organisation" is exactly the description to give to a coalition of a number of religious bodies which have, indeed, a Free Church Council in common, but which are in a great many of their activities extremely disconnected one from the other. That is not merely minute criticism—it belonged to the noble and learned Viscount's idealist picture, that there will be a great organisation, as he said, gathering into its circle all those rushing forces which he associates with the name of Nonconformity; whilst over against this again "this little diminutive body"—a body which contains more of the Welsh population than any other religious community; so he draws the picture—in order that we might see the vast contrast between the two.
I must apologise for anticipating what more properly belongs to my brethren from Wales, to whom we shall hope to listen to-morrow, but when I heard case after case given where Nonconformity was identified with all that was for the good and the progress of the country while the Church appeared—or so it seemed to be suggested—as a body without life, without intelligence, without energy, without enthusiasm, I thought of words which a great Liberal statesman not very long ago used about a Church that was going upwards and onwards, from elevation to elevation, and I thought if Mr. Gladstone had been here he might perhaps have criticised a bit even so distinguished a successor in statesmanship as the noble and learned Viscount. The reason I touch upon it is that I do not think any one would say that idealism by itself prompted this Bill, or that idealism was very characteristic of the way in which this Bill had been recommended and pushed. I want to use careful language, because I can quite honestly say in these later years 1193 of my life there is no object I more desire to Promote than a better understanding between the Church of England and the Nonconformist bodies, and I should be very sorry indeed to use, certainly to use needlessly, any words which might go in the opposite direction. I suppose it is true that we must say that what is in the Welsh mind, so far as that part of the Welsh mind which earnestly likes this Bill is concerned, is a dislike of the advantage given to one religious body over the rest. There is, perhaps, a little inconsistency about that, because a great deal of the language used goes to show that it is no advantage at all, but, on the other hand, that it is a great advantage not to be Established.
It was said by a speaker in another place that the real spring and motive of the Bill was "spite and malice" on the part of Nonconformists. I want to dissociate myself from that language. That is not the language I should desire to use, any more, if I may venture to say so, than the language about "robbery," which the right rev. Prelate took the occasion of repudiating. That is not language which I should use here on this Bench or any one else on any other Bench in the House would be likely to use with any approval from the House at large. I do not want to use that language, but I suppose I am using reasonable and genuine language when I say that there is a feeling that an unjust advantage is being given to one religious body over another. From behind all the political organisation, behind all the movements of the Government, behind all the movements of the Liberal Party, there you have the root and spring of this Bill; and so it comes out, I think, that the Bill is due to a kind of zeal for what we may call equality.
Now, equality is a very noble thing rightly handled. When equality means a recognition of the equal spiritual value of human beings, of men and women, of black and white, or rich and poor, there is nothing more noble than equality. We know also that it has had certain other associations of a different and not so attractive a character. Equality has sometimes led to a suggestion for demolishing and pulling down and bringing things to what I might call a dead level. You must watch equality, I think, before you judge of it in a particular case. However, suppose the desire for equality to be a thing which is very natural—and I fully concede 1194 that it is very natural for a Welsh Nonconformist to desire equality in his particular case—then surely you have to ask at what cost that equality is to be obtained? Because, after all, it is not a thing of inestimable value. It may be natural that those who conceive themselves, as I said, somewhat inconsistently to be at a disadvantage should wish to remove that disadvantage, but you should not do everything or anything in order to get equality. I cannot help thinking that it is when you come to consider that that the case against the Bill begins to come out. Is equality sufficient reason, for instance, for treating of such men as the hardworking clergy in the towns and parishes of Wales in a way which is to be, I think, compared to the treatment by Pharaoh of the Israelites. They are working pretty hard already, but their work is to be made very appreciably harder by the treatment to be applied to them. Is that a thing which you would like to do in order to secure equality? One would think, if this is the motive, that the matter would be approached with very great tenderness, with very great discretion, and with a great desire to turn all doubtful points over on the side of the Church which was to suffer.
Lord Eversley tried to convince us that there was generosity in the Bill; but I should like to ask whether we can really acquiesce in any such description. Let us look first at the case of the endowments. You leave endowments given since 1702, but could you do less? You leave—and this is a very considerable thing—you leave the cathedrals and the parish churches to Churchmen, and believe, as I hope and believe, they will keep them up. Would public opinion have tolerated any other proposal? But let us go on and come to the tithe. You say that the Nonconformist is genuine in his convictions in supporting his own religious society, and that he naturally rebels against the necessity of paying for the support of a religious body to which he is not attached. But many Churchmen pay tithe. Is the confiscation of the whole of the tithe except what goes to the lay proprietor a generous way of meeting that difficulty? Let me leave tithe and come to the glebe. I ask the noble and learned Viscount, Can any kind of idealism suggest to us that the glebes, which hurt no one, which are not an encroachment upon anyone's liberty and take 1195 nothing out of anyone's pocket, should be taken from these poorly-paid and hardworking people and alienated to other purposes which in ordinary usage are not religious at all?
And as we have listened to these proposals we have observed how little attempt there has been to take account of an argument which has come from very distinguished people of liberal associations. It seems to me that every old fallacy has been revived, including the old fallacy about national property. I doubt whether any fair-minded man, or anyone who had really looked into the controversy about national property and observed what great authorities like the late Professor Freeman—one of the most ardent Liberals who ever breathed—said about it, could revive that argument as it has been revived of late years. But one thing stirred my bile more than anything in these matters, and it was this, that when the question came up of concession, people gathering, as it were, a kind of Pecksniffian robe of respectability about them argued that they really could not allow the Government to make such-and-such a concession because it was trenching upon national property which they had no right to part with. That was a description of what would be done if the amount taken from the Welsh Church, which had grown to be a national property, was in any degree diminished; and I do not think it is unfair to say that the tone of the Welsh representatives in another place, so far as we can judge of it, was more like that of men making ready to devour the carcase and divide the spoils, than of a set of men representative of religious interests. I hope I have not said that in any way too strongly, but those are the things that make one feel what the case is against this Bill.
If I may still detain the House for a minute or two I should like to say that there are in this Bill provisions which have the effect of dismembering altogether the working organisation which allows the whole body of the Church to go on in unity. This clause need not have been put in. It would probably have been difficult—more difficult, perhaps, than a layman like myself can appreciate—to provide that the sitting together of assemblies and so on should go on as before. I think the Free Church Council representing the Nonconformists had this very issue before 1196 them. In their own case they had to decide whether it was desirable that for the better expression of the national wish of the Church in Wales they should set up a Welsh Free Church Council, and they refused entirely to do anything of the kind. They took what to my mind was undoubtedly the wiser and nobler line of saying that they would have one Free Church Council binding in one great unity the Nonconformist Churches of England and Wales. On this point nothing has impressed me more in that plucky—I would almost call it heroic—defence which my brother of St. Davids has made on behalf, not of the property of his Church, but of what he believes to be its deepest interests, that defence in which he has ridden so many courses and broken so many lances, than the way in which I heard him at the Swansea Church Congress, before mixed audiences of Welsh and English Churchmen, work out the assertion that in severing the Church in England from its dioceses in Wales, the Welsh life would be made a punier life, a narrower life, a life in which all the best currents which we desire to see would flow less strongly and less brightly.
Then it is said, "You could have got these things changed if you had liked." But surely, my Lords, that is the most conclusive proof of what I have been saying. If these things were not essential to the Bill, if the Bill could have been framed on other and much more generous lines, then why on earth was it not done? Why on earth have you chosen to pursue equality at this heavy, this crushing cost? Why on earth did you not shape the Bill as generously and as liberally as you could from the first, and not wait to be driven, or pressed, or shamed, to do it at a later stage? It may be urged that we ought to "take cheerfully the spoiling of our goods." Well, the goods are not ours, and I do not know that the words are a good motto for the conduct of trustees. I do not know that it is an excellence in a trustee to take cheerfully the spoiling of his goods; but whatever we ought to have done on our side, I do think it is plain that this attack ought not to have been made as it has. We know that those who are responsible for the Bill have had suggestions from Liberal Churchmen attached to their Party, who spoke honourably and frankly, and from distinguished Nonconformists (some of those who count for most in 1197 the country) showing the great uneasiness and dissatisfaction at the way you are treating the Church of England. They have gone so far that they have joined in common council and action with the Liberal Churchmen out of Parliament who belong to ourselves, and yet the Bill is pressed and we are told there can be no more concessions. The very notion of making the Bill a little more generous produces on the part of Welsh representatives that peculiar fiery temper with which we are familiar.
Then although I do not wish to do more than touch on this, because I think it is a politician's matter much more than a Bishop's, still one cannot help saying that the Government are applying for this of all purposes what is confessedly a most doubtful, and to a large part of the country a most exasperating, political expedient—I mean the political expedient which enables you to run Bills through without appealing to the country. It is pretty widely known what the country really feels about this Bill, and yet it is to go through in this sort of way. What I do feel is that where we ought at the best to have got a solution we have got instead an attack. As an attack this Bill has been pushed, and as an attack, accordingly, it has been and is resented. There has often in the past been a sort of feud in many respects between the representatives of the Church and the Liberal Party on many matters. I, for my part, greatly deprecate the idea that the Church is necessarily in antagonism to those who especially seek to represent movement and progress and who especially speak of their desire, a perfectly genuine desire, to do good to the less represented and poorer classes. That seems to me to be a great calamity so far as it has been true, but I think it has been greatly diminished of late years. I do not think it is true that the Church now takes one political line. Then there comes a measure like this, and we are back in all the old trouble. It is a belated fragment, I think, of an earlier time, the time when Liberationism bulked large in our public life, when Nonconformists and Churchmen looked upon each other as antagonists, without mutual knowledge. This Bill is brought in and renews all the old antagonism, and whether it is worth while in the interests of equality to produce a result of that kind, I leave it to the House to say.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LLANDAFF
My Lords, may I crave the indulgence of the House as this is the first time I have ventured to address your Lordships. I rise as representing a diocese which, although comparatively small in area, contains more than half the population of all Wales, and I therefore feel it my duty not to give a silent vote on this matter. May I first say, with the greatest possible respect to the Bishop of Hereford, who referred to the demonstrations, that I do not think if he had been present at some of the demonstrations which I have seen in the last week or two in London, Swansea, Huddersfield, Cheltenham, and so on, he could have, or would have, made use of the description he did in referring to the celebrated meeting in Ephesus long ago, when the people shouted for two hours "Great is Diana of the Ephesians," and they knew not wherefore they were come together. I think most of those who attended the various demonstrations knew wherefore they had come together, and felt strongly on the subject; and not only did they know themselves what they had come for, but they meant to make it known to others why they had come together, and what they wanted.
I submit that we are justified in calling upon the House to refuse a Second Reading to this Bill until it has been referred to the electors, and we are strongly confirmed in that view by the most striking evidence, the evidence given by the demonstrations which have taken place throughout the length and breadth of the country. There is a very strong feeling indeed against this Bill, much stronger than many members of this House give the country credit for. We were told by the right rev. Prelate that it was a pity we should stir up—I think he said—strife. We are not trying to stir up strife. We are simply taking this action because we believe it is our duty to do so, and we are simply standing in defence of a trust which is committed to us for those who are to come after us. We did not wish to have this controversy; it is very much against our will, and it has interfered very sadly indeed with our proper work which we long to get back to, and we resent very much that we should be driven away from our proper work to take up such work as this. We ask your Lordships to refuse a Second Reading to this Bill until the people of the country have full opportunity of knowing what it means, and 1199 of giving their vote upon it; and I have no doubt that the people will give a very different vote on the matter from that which they would have given a short time ago before they understood what it meant. They are now, I think, beginning to understand it.
We were told by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that in Wales the Church is separated and alienated from the mass of the people, and that that is due to several causes. I think he said the alienation was due to a certain extent to the fact that the Church had not taken its proper part in the advancement of the country with regard to education, and so forth. And we were told by an eminent speaker in another place lately that we owe to Nonconformity the giving to the Welsh people of the Bible in their own language and the Sunday school. I believe statements of this kind are made under a misapprehension of the facts of history. Those who have studied the history of Wales during the last 300 years or so will tell you that as regards the question of giving the Bible to the Welsh people in their own language, that was due to Bishop Morgan, and the great pioneer of Sunday schools was a clergyman of the Church of England, Griffith Jones, rector of Llanddowror, in Carmarthenshire. As for higher education and so on, I think your Lordships will bear me out that the question of higher education had been supported and taken up by Churchmen quite as much as by Nonconformists. The question of higher education was pressed upon the country and upon Parliament fifty or sixty years ago by a Welsh clergyman who wrote under the assumed name of "Veritas." He published a Plea for Higher Education in Wales and many other pamphlets, and probably did more than any one else to bring the question of higher education in Wales to the front. He afterwards became a Bishop of the Church in Wales, and he never failed to urge upon the country the pressing need of higher education in Wales—refer to the late Bishop of St. Asaph. I do not think it is true to say that Church-people have not exerted themselves in the cause of higher education and all the great movements of Wales. I admit that to a certain extent there has been an alienation of a certain portion of the Welsh people from the Church; but I do not think it is right to say that the Church has severed itself from the Welsh people as if the Welsh 1200 people are not Churchpeople. For myself, I am a Welshman and the son of a Welshman; we Bishops from Wales all speak Welsh and claim to know as much of the conditions as others who claim to speak on behalf of the Welsh Nonconformists. I have always tried to work with the Nonconformists, but this agitation and controversy is forced upon us and makes it difficult for us to co-operate as in the past, and I am perfectly sure that if this Bill becomes law it will make it ten times more difficult than it is now. But we live in the hope that this Bill will never become law, and that happiness and peace will develop more and more so that we shall get to the time when we shall work in harmony with one another as our friends beyond the Tweed are doing.
We are told that, after all, this Bill will not do us much harm. But what are the facts of the case in the diocese of Llandaff? We are struggling there against very great difficulties to do the proper work of the Church. We have a population which is increasing by 30,000 every year, and it is no easy matter to cope with that; but we are trying to do so in the best way we can, and, as has been admitted most generously by the Prime Minister and even by the Home Secretary, the Church has been for the last fifty or sixty years working hard and endeavouring with great success to regain its ground and make up for the past. In the diocese of Llandaff—I speak of what I know, but I believe it is the same all over Wales—all the people, the working men quite as much as the wealthy people, have been giving their time, labour, money, and energies towards the work of the Church to keep up with this enormously increased population. Six years ago we were able to raise in the diocese of Llandaff something like £90,000 for church building, maintenance, and other purposes; in the following year we raised about £100,000; in the next year over £110,000; and so on until last year when we raised about £145,000—increasing more than £10,000 every year.
You will say, If you are able to do this what harm is there in Disendowment? But we are not able to keep up with the growth of population, and now you come to us and tell us you are going to take away the large sum of £44,200 from the parochial endowments of £72,704, which are all we 1201 have now in the diocese of Llandaff. And what is going to be the result? I am only referring to the diocese of Llandaff. There are 109 parishes there where there is no Nonconformist minister. You may say, "But there is a chapel to which a minister from some other place goes." Well, there are fifty-three parishes where there is no chapel or minister, and that is in this diocese alone. If this Bill passes fifty-one parishes in the diocese of Llandaff will be left without a single penny of endowment, and fifteen parishes will be left with less than £20 a year. I ask, What will become of that sort of country parish? We are trying to do all we can to meet the enormous growth of population in the great industrial centres, and I do not think it is fair that we should be treated in this way. I most earnestly hope that your Lordships will pass the Amendment and refuse to give this Bill a Second Reading until the country has been able to express its views on the subject with the whole of the facts of the matter laid fairly and squarely before it.
§ The further Debate adjourned till To-morrow.