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DISESTABLISHMENT MEETINGS…

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DISESTABLISHMENT MEETINGS AT PONTYPRIDD. Br B. X. C.j On Thursday, Sept. 11th. a new epoch in the his- tory of Welsh Disestablishment was inaugurated at Pontypridd. Welshmen have hitherto been con- tent with knowing' that they themselves are united on the Disestablishment question, and have neglected to inform Englishmen what the strength of the feeling for the disestablishment of the English Church in Wales really is. Now. however they have determined to carry the war into Eng- land. Welsh bishops acd church dignitaries have hitherto done and said what they pleased in Eng- land about the position of the Church in Wales, and a people that is in the main loyal to the Church of England have been too eager to believe .them. It will be the work of the Campaigners to disillusion the English masses on the subject, and show them what exactly is the position of affairs in Wales. The conference at Pontypridd was im- portant in another sense. It was in more than name a Welsh National Council. Every county in Wales was represented, and represented by its aristocracy—not only by its aristocracy of wealth and culture, but of worth, merit, and honesty and earnestness. There was a refreshing newness about the arguments which the several speakers advanced, a newness, if not in every case of matter. at all events of treatment. Major Jones, the late American Consul at Cardiff, and shortly a member for a Welsh constituency, received his baptism of fire as a Disestablisher—in Wales at all events. Years ago he had moved the masses of Newcastle by his eloquent statement of the case acrainst the Church, and it is no exaggeration to say that at Ponty- pridd he electrified his audience. He did not look the question from a political point cf view. but from a religious. It was difficult to understand," he said. why the religion of Nazareth, founded in simplicity and poverty—founded on broad charity—should have developed into an engine for persecution." He took up the same position as another great American, Roger Williams, whom he quoted, when he went on to say that the State had no concern with the opinions of men. and no right to interfere even in the slightest degree with the form of worship they might choose." And one could almost imagine that he was listening to the words of one of the early Christians, when it was said that Christianity was a kingdom of the soul and of the affections." and that it was the failure to acknowledge and to act upon that principle that had filled the world with tyrants and sycophants. Mr. Lloyd Morgan, the youthful M.P. for West Carmarthenshire, came in for a most flattering re- ception. and undoubtedly added to his growing re- putation. It was, not. he said, a question of counting noses. It was true that the Church was the Church of the minority. Ó. But that was not of importance. The principle of an Established Church was a wrong one to adopt, acd it did not matter whether it was the Church of the minority or the Church of the majority—there oucrht to be no connection between Church and State." Many other Welsh M.P. s spoke in the morning and afternoon conferences, but space will not admit my doing anything but barely to chronicle their names. In the morning Messrs. A. Spicer (the candidate for the Monmouth boroughs). R. D. Burnie (Swansea). Rev. W. Thomas Whitland). S. T. Evans, M.P.. Thomas Williams (Gwaelodv- g-arthi. Llewellyn Jones (secretary of the Cam- paign Committee), and Alderman W. H. Morgan (Pontypridd) spoke. In the afternoon addresses were delivered by Messrs. Stuart Rendel. M.P.. John Cory, Sir Hussey Vivian. M.P.. Alder- man R. Cory. D. A. Thomas" M.P.. C. Humphreys- Owen (candidate for the Denbigh boroughs). S."C. Evans-Williams (Rhayader). D. E. Davies (Pwll- heli), D. Lloyd George. M.P.. Mabon. M.P.. and the Rev. Aaron Davies. Never has it been my lot to attend a more enthusiastic meeting than the evening meeting at Pontypridd. On the way in. an enthusiastic Tory—if a Tory could be enthusiastic at Ponty- pridd on such a day—jeeringly pointed out to me the tricolor of the Union Jack. 'which ..Seated outside the Market-hall. Not being skilled in such matters I asked him what was wrong with it. Don't you see, he said, "that the tricolor is on the inside—a sign of distress:" He had. however, mistaken the significance of the omen. The Campaigners within were not in distress, as was evidenced by the crowded hall, and the liberal donations that kept flowing in. and I con- cluded that it wan a Churchman that must have hanged the Union Jack. Even the mottoes on the wall spoke of buoyant hope and assured success. I thought it most appropriate that above the plat- form where Young Wales figured prominently for about the fiist time in our political history, were the words Cymru Fydd," in gigantic letters. Here and there were other mottoes, Success to the Campaign." "England blocks the way." "Crefydd Rydd." •• Y Degwm i'r Genedl." -■ Cvd- wybod Rydd heh drais na gorme. C ad was I to see that the sturdy Liberals of Pontypridd had the courage of their convictions, and had put up a motto. Home Rule for Wales,' in one of the most conspicuous places. It reminded me of mother Welsh Parhameat-about the only one ever held when Owen v^lyrv.^r welcomed representatives irom ail pa its of Wales at ItaciivnlW^ ion,»iV(l centuries ago. All the spiers spoke'well. mu-t be s.:ud Lnat it was the Welsh speakers that stirred the multitude. Mr. Spicer. Mr. Frank Edwards. Mr. Humphrevs- Owen, and Mr. Randell spoke well and to the point, and the speech of Mr. Stuart Rendel was as full of matter as an egg is of meat. "Mabon" only paid the chairman of the Campaign Com- mittee a weli-deserved compliment when "he said that his speech would furnish them with matter for many speeches in the future. But truth com- pels me to say that it was the Welsh speakino- of Lloyd George and Mabon that roused the audience to enthusiasm. And no wonder. It is but seldom that Welshmen have bad the chance of hearing their M.P.'s speak their own tongue without the semblance of an English accent. I had never heard Lloyd George before, and I freely confess that I was disappointed in him—on the rig-ht side. I had pictured to myself a red-haired, freckled, uncouth young man. with a certain gift of speech, with intense earnestness, and with a voice as shrill as a washerwoman's, and as inexhaustible as a cheapjacks. I was, therefore, very pleasantly surprised when. instead of the interesting young man I have pictured. I beheld a youth of pleasant face and intelligent look, not marked out from the common herd except by a certain gentlemanliness and culture which could be felt but not described. My surprise was accentuated when I heard him speak. Where was the rough, shrill voice I had expected, the uncouth gestures and the awkward gesticulationsThus I thought when, for the first time. I experienced the magic of his silvery voice, and beheld his graceful and appro- priate gestures, and listened to his words of burning eloquence, relieved bv a true vein of Welsh humour. What pleased me more than all was the fact that this young orator was a thorough product of Welsh education and bringing-up. Now and then vou detected a charming touch of the Welsh accent. The cadence of his voice reminded one of the old Welsh pulpit orators, and his Biblical illustrations showed that here was a true sun of the Sunday School and the society. Xo wonder, then. we all felt proud of our young compatriot. I have alluded to his Biblical illustrations. Let me give two examples. After referring to the noble donations of the wealthier of those present, he went on to say in the words of the Apostles, Gold and silver have I not. but whac I have—earnestness and energy • that I freely give." Equally happy, also, was "his reference to the leper Gehazi. It was EJisha that cured Xaaman of his leprosy, but it was Gehazi who received the c'othes and fine linen. It is Nonconformity that has cured the moral leprosy of Wale". but it i, the Church that receives the tithes. I couldn t help carrying the illustration a little further in my mind. and sav that. as the leprosy of Naaman clung to Gehazi and his de- scendants for ever, so has it been with the Church m Wales. His peroration fairly brought down the house. His sweet voice had a warlike ring in it. his quiet presence seemed to be inspired for the time with the martial spirit of hi" ancestors who marched into Saxonland—not peacefully as the present c impaigners but to do or die to "the tune of Hariech, when with flashing eves and de- termined men he recited Ceiriog's lines— •• Cledd yn erbyn cledd a chwerv Dur yn erbyn d- • a derv RhyäÓd aiif a hi." "Sword 'gainst sword will play, Steel 'gainst steel will clash Liberty will win the day." The rising of Mabon was the signal for tremen- dous applause that reminded one of Thomas Davies' poem— W hen Mabon ro-e none dar ■d o e The claim he made for freedom.1 A different style of speaker is Mabon to Lloyd George. George has the rapier thrust, the irony. the dry humour of the oratorical expert. Mabon has the sledge hammer stroke, the rollicking humour, the two-handed sword, of one who has always gone straight to the point. If one could imagine the two engaged in a contest one would be reminded of the duel ir Scott's Anne of Geierstein." George, like Arthur de Vere. relies more on skill, and quick ness Mabon, like Rudolf, on strength and direct- ness of aim. I have heard Mabon many and many a time before, but it was only on Thursday night that I saw the secret of his power. The hall. whose largeness oppressed even experienced speakers, was filled with his resonant tenor voice Add to this, that he was in excellent spirits, and had evidently been aroused by the telling speech L of Stuart Rendel, who preceded him. and anyone who has heard Mabon will understand how hugely he was appreciated. There was no attempt at • argumentative treatment of the subject, and nc endeavour to display dialectical skill. There was no pretence of polished wit or rounded periods, It was simply a homely, irresistible appeal to an audience whose humour and whose every turn of thought were familiar to him. His hwyl was that of a Methodist preacher, awl his speech was interlarded—penetrated—saturated with biblical quotations, phrases, and illustrations. But for the shrieks of laughter, which interrupted the speaker now and then, one would have thought one was listening to a sermon. So much was this the case, that one druidical reporter, carried away by a too vivid imagination, was mentally tran- sported to some little hillside Bethel, and dissolved into tears. Mabon dealt with the past, present, and the future of the Church in Wales. "I he pa,.t." Y Gorphenol Ay. that's a fruitful subject. You have heard of a certain man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and who fell among thieves. The proud priest passed him by without heeding his groans or bathing his wounds the haughty Levite left him in his agony. But a good Samaritan-a stranger, a heretic—came by. and saw him lying in his blood, and took compassion on him. lie poured balm into his wounds, and took him and housed and sheltered him. That is the history of Wales in the past. The priests and prelates of the Church left her groaning in her agony, but the heretic healed her bleeding wounds, and gave her home and sh:ltcr-" The present of the Church had been described by the Standard-. Her mission was to proselytise. The future of the Church depended on her Disestablishment, on the severance of her connection with the State. Once the Church is disestablished she will be in a different position with regard to Wales and Welshmen than now. It is then that Nonconformity will be put on its trial. The great wealth, culture, and education of the Church will make themse'ves felt then, and not before. It is said that the Nonconformists will return to the Church, as the bees to the old hive. But why did the bees leave the hive in rhe first instance ? It was because there were too manv wasps (' cacwn') there. And they would not return until the cacwn had gone out. What would become of the clergymen when the Church was disestablished.' He (Mabon) neither knew nor cared—for the clergymen. But he would sav that as long as he preached the gospel of Christ. no clergyman would be uncared for in religious Wales." Excellent, i' faith, in tone and mattery I was very much surprised and disgusted that the speech of Mr. Stuart Rendel—the very best speecn on Disestablishment I have ever heard—was not published verbatim in the dailies. I was look- ing forward with pleasure to an opportuuitv of reading carefully the closely argued and woiirhty speech that he delivered. I hope that steps will be taken to get it published in pamphlet form. Lloyd George and Mabon were far happier as plat- form speakers, but in substance Stuart Renders speech outweighed them all. It was a grave, moderate, convincing indictment against the Church in Wales and her "militant" supporters. There was a touch of oratory about his way of ex- posing the Bishop of St. Asaph's remarks at Exeter. His pamphlet.' he said, is called, The Truth about the Church in Wales." Let us look at the headings of this pamphlet. Here we have ó The decline of Nonconformity.' Tho decay of spiritual life among Nonconfor- mists. "The political character of Dissent,' &c. But this, he added, after a pause, and holding up the bishop s pamphlet. ó. is the truth about the < hurch in Wales." Very amusing, as well as in- structive, was the manner in which he exposed the anomaly of the Queen's position as head of the Church of England. "The mission of the Estab- lished Church is to proselytise, so says the Standard. and of this proselytising Church the Queen is the head. When, therefore, she steps across the borders into-Scotland, she ought to proselytise. But what does the head of the Church do Once she is in Scotland she becomes a Presbyterian." He was equally happy in his exhortations to per- severe in the campaign. The English have acted nnjustlyinthismatter. What they havc given to Presbyterian Scotland and to Catholic Ireland they refuse to Wales. Why have they treated differently towards Wales It was because Wales had been quiet, and Scotland and Ireland restless under the English Episcopacy." The meetings were throughout a brilliant suc- cess, both in the matter of attendance and in the amount of subscriptions, which, during the day. amounted to over £2,000.

CORRESPONDENCE.

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