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- WELSH DISESTABLISHMENT.

DISENDOWMENT-IS IT PLUNDER…

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DISENDOWMENT-IS IT PLUNDER ? (Continued.) In the interests of true religion, which is no less dear to the nonconformist than it is to the most ardent of his opponents, no effort should be spared to secure the passage into law of the present Bill. The majority of the people are favourable to disestablishment. If they do not lend their support to form a public opinion strong enough to compel the acceptance of the measure it will be because they are deceived by the misrepresentations of the opponents of the measure; because they are alarmed by the assertion that dis- endowment endangers the rights of pro- perty. Their instinct already tells them that there is something false and hollow in the assertion. But we know that in important matters, men decline to be guided by in- stinct alone. They insist that instinct shall be supplemented by a conviction born of analysis and argument before they will help to alter the existing state of things. The duty of the nonconformist is therefore clear it is to supply the analysis and argument that will induce conviction. He must sweep away the misrepresentations of his opponents; he must show the people that there is no occasion to be alarmed for the safety of property that the proposal to disendow the Church involves no attack on, no weakening of, the true and proper rights of property. To the men who toiled and bled to secure free Parliamentary institutions for England there would be something distinctly offensive and treacherous in the assertion that disen- dowment is robbery. All rights of pro- perty were created by the State the State Church itself was created by the State and the capacity to hold property belongs to it only by right of State creation. Surely the State has the right and the power to dispose of the objects of its own creation in the way it judges best, or the supremacy of the State has become an empty expression. If the right and the power do not belong to the majesty of the State, to whom do they belong ? What becomes of our much vaunted free institutions and form of self- government if we are to learn at this period that we are after all the thralls of an aristo- cratic or an ecclesiastical oligarchy ? Let us have an end of nonsense, or confess ourselves slaves. If there is such a thing as treason against the State (and our ancestors believed that there was), it is such treason to question the right of the State to dispose of the pro- perty of the State Church-to maintain that the resumption by the State of a part of such property is robbery. A State whose concern with property was limited to the function of safeguarding it, and which was denied the power of dis- posing of it, would not be a sovereign power. In such a State property would be the sovereign power. In England the State is still at least nominally supreme and that supremacy carries with it the right to pre- scribe the disposition of property, and to resume public property when it no longer serves the purpose for which alone it allows it to exist—effectively to serve the public interest. It is no new thing in England for the State to assert that right. But a striking commentary on our growing materialism and the decline of public spirit is afforded by the reflection that the assertion of that right in former days was, and is, regarded as the manifestation of a healthy national conscious- ness, but its assertion to-day is proclaimed an iniquity and a robbery. If disendowment means robbery to-day, it was equally a robbery in the days of the Tudors. Where then is the sincerity and the honesty of some of the opponents of disendowment to-day ? Their broad acres are the proceeds of a disendowment in the days of Henry VIII. On their own argu- ment Henry VIII robbed the Church. Their ancestors were accessories to the robbery when they received part of the pro- ceeds of the robbery from the arch-robber and they themselves are accessories as long as they hold those lands. If they are honest and sincere they will restore the plunder to the rightful owner, and no longer support an honourable name with the profits of dis- honesty. But we do not hear that they propose to do that. Can it be that they object to the proposal to apply the resumed public property to more urgent public needs ? Is it that the action of Henry VIII was just because he bestowed the plunder on his favourites, while a similar action to-day be- comes unjust and iniquitous because the whole State will reap the benefit. D. (To be continued.)

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