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Family Notices




DISESTABLISHMENT. IT would be vain to expect a satisfactory debate on the great question of Disesta- blishment in the House of Commons as at present constituted. When education is to be prosituted to benefit an into- lerant church, when the landlord is relieved at the cost of the ratepayer, and when the jingo Imperialist is granted his behest by additional expenditure on army and navy, it is hardly to be expected that the House is in a mood to deal properly with the Disestablishment question. An overwhelming majority devoted to class privileges may always be counted upon to withstand the curtailment of existing privi- leges as well as to add to their number, hence the disappointing nature of the debate upon Mr. SMITH'S resolution on Tuesday night. Mr. SMITH called attention to the evils re- sulting from the union of Church and State, and moved 1 That it is expedient to dises- tablish and disendow the Church of England in England and Wales.' No progressive politician would for a moment contest this, and as a means of obtaining the voice of the House on the abstract question, the re- solution was to all purposes a proper one j but in point of urgency, it is hardly fair to bind Wales with England in this manner. Public opinion in Wales on this question is greatly advanced,and the case for disestablishment is much stronger than it is in England; therefore, we cannot but consider that the Welsh case, if it is not to be materially handicapped should always be presented on its own merits. The present debate, moreover, seems to emphasize this. As Mr. BALFOUR, pointed out, the front Opposition bench were conspicuous by their absence. Insomuch as the previous Parlia- ment had affirmed the principle of Welsh disestablishment, the fate of Mr. SMITH'S resolution would at first seem to indicate a serious falling off in the Liberal support ac corded to Welsh Disestablishment. But it s evident that that view of the case is not the correct one to take. The absence of the Opposition leaders, and the insincere tone of Mr. BALFOUR'S utterances offer the key to the true value of the debate. Mr. SMITH spoke earnestly, though the range of his ar- guments may have been somewhat wider than the occasion would justify. Mr. E. J. C. MORTON. who seconded the motion, was nearer the mark, but Mr. BALFOUR simply ridiculed the motion and the speech- es. When I look at the state of the benches opposite, it does seem to me that the House is wasting its time, and is adding neither to its dignity nor to its efficiency in occupying itself with arguments of which it would be far too high a compliment to say they are academic.' This, of course, is Mr. BALFOUR at his best, adding considerably to the length of a debate which he himself considered mere waste of time. Were we to accept his estimate of the proceedings, we would be compelled tosay that the dignity and efficiency of the House would have suffered considerably less had Mr. BALFOUR not guttered a word. Even if Mr. SMITH'S arguments were ordinary to a degree, to say bluntly that Mr. SMITH'S object was Ito' destroy the Church was no improvement upon them. Such groundless charges are characteristic of those champions of Church Defence who appeal to ignorance and pre- judice, and their impudence is only equalled by that of the gentleman who talks about the dignity and efficiency of the House as things violable only by an attempt, however ill-supported, to affirm a principle assented to by the House on more than one occasion,, and conscientiously held and honourably ad- vocated by gentlemen who are at least above appealing to rank prejudice in favour of their cause. It ill becomes the person who could not help but regard this debate as little better than a sham to affirm that the Church possesses a clergy whose work is not mainly or chiefly among the rich and well-to-do, but among the poorest and most helpless.' It is notorious that the Church of England is the Church of the rich that is even admitted by some of its most ar- dent supporters. The true democratic element in the Church goes for its disestab- lishment, and it would be difficult for Mr. BALFOUR to make out a case against dises- tablishment from that quarter. But Mr. BALFOUR does not consider the matter as a party politician, he is glad to 'dismiss all lower matters of consideration,' and is de- sirous to consider the matter as one anxious for the growth of true religion and the spread of spiritual life in all classes of the community.' It is rather difficult to believe that Mr. BALFOUR considers party politics lower matters of consideration,' but even if he does so, we should have wished him to approach this question from that standpoint, for we find that when he considers it 'as one anxious for the growth of true religion,' &c., he is even below the general level of the party politician-he attributes unworthy motives, and misrepresent* facts. It is in- deed singular that Mr. BALFOUR should complain that the debate was 4 a sham.' But does the result of this debate show that disestablishment is fa!ling into dis- favour among the Opposition 1 We believe that it does not. The motion itself, as we have pointed out, was not, in the present state of Parliament, calculated to prove of much value, and it was undoubtedly brought forward at a somewhat inopportune mo- ment. It should have been better suppor- ted by the Liberal leaders, but then the absence of members was not confined to the Liberal party alone; the Conservatives lacked interest in the subject as well as the Liberals. It was not the right moment or form to consider the question, and no great importance need be attached to the result. Clerical aggression is just at present occu- pied in trying to prop up the Establishment by means of the V oluntarychools, and for some time at least the battle for disestab- lishment will take the form of resistance to the education proposals of the Government. This at present is the Liberal rallying point, and any wider aspect of the question may not work out quite so satisfactorily. The lack of interest shown by the Liberal lead- ers may indeed be taken as indicating the absence of a real demand for disestablish- ment in England; but even if that is so, England would, as proved last year, oppose the re-endowment of the Church by means of the Education Bill.

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SLINGS AND ARROWS. 1--l-I..",",-,,-