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adapt oneself to the varying exigencies of the moment, but 'to see beforehand what is just and righteous for a nation to do, and then to bring round the nation to one's own standard. To political diplomacy and strategy they may, indeed, be strangers, but they have seldom been destitute of political sagacity, and never wanting in faith, even to the extent of self-sacrifice. Now, the opinions of such a party are, we think, entitled to respect from statesmen of all classes;—and their opinion now is, that any extension of the system of religious endowment would be fatal to all the best interests of the nation. More than this, they think that the time has come when the question of endowments, tested in the case of the Irish Church, ought to be tried before the country; and they believe that, if it should be fairly tried, it will be settled in their favour. As Englishmen, and not merely as Dissenters, as Christian men, and not merely as sectarians, they are persuaded that the happiest and the proudest day in the history of their country will be that in which the State
at last recognises the all-sufficient power of Christ to sustain His own Church, and at last does, in religious matters, equal justice between man and man. On no other basis can the full prosperity of both Church and State be secured.
The four nights' debate in the House of Commons on Mr. Maguire's motion has happily, for the present at least, dispelled the fears which were raised by the publication of Earl Russell's untimely proposals. The clouds have lifted up, and we can see for what and whom we are fighting. We regard this debate as, on the whole, one of the most important that has ever taken place in the English Houses of Legislature. Mr. Disraeli's personal success as a leader of party had somewhat turned the brains of some of our public writers, but his scheme for the conciliation of Ireland has gone a good way towards destroying the illusion as to his qualities of statesmanship. What can be said of a First Minister of the Crown who deliberately allows his Irish Secretary to propound a scheme for the endowment' of a Roman Catholic University in Ireland, and who, when he finds that the scheme is unpopular, as deliberately ignores the proposals made at his instance, and says that no endowment is proposed ? If such agility consists with political wisdom, or the ability to govern a nation, it is the first time that those qualities have ever been so closely united.
But the destruction of the political prestige of the Tory party and its leader is of small importance in comparison with the declarations of the chiefs of the Liberal party. We feel profoundly grateful for the courage with which these have been enabled to take their stand, at last, upon a principle, and scarcely less for the remarkable unity which pervaded their counsels. No speeches were ever more worthy of the great occasion which called them forth, or of the great end at which they aimed, than the speeches of Mr. Fortescue, Mr. Mill, Mr. Bright, and Mr. Gladstone, upon the ecclesiastical condition of Ireland, and the remedy for the unhappy state of that unhappy country. It is something to have reconstructed the scattered materials of the Liberal organization ; but it is infinitely more to have given it a great and patriotic end at which to aim, and that that end should be the disestablishment and disendowment of the worst State-Church in this country. It is remarkable that Earl Russell should have addressed himself in his letter to two of the most prominent speakers in this debate-Mr. Fortescue and Mr. Gladstone. Mr. Fortescue replied to Earl Russell's proposals by characterizing the Established Church as the greatest scandal of the country, and by saying it was impossible that it could be allowed to remain. It • was maintained, he said, 'in one country by the external ' force of another, and its abolition had passed far beyond • inquiry.' He deprecated any application of its revenues to ecclesiastical purposes. • To you,' said Earl Russell, ‘it belongs to • take a lead in this great work—not of disendowment, but of re• endowment—which will cause you ever to be remembered • in Ireland as one of the worthiest and most enlightened of her 'sons.' Mr. Fortescue has taken a course which may lead to his name being held in such deserved and affectionate remembrance, but he has done so by refusing to listen to the counsels of his former chief.
There is another passage in this unfortunate letter, in which the noble author made an appeal to Mr. Gladstone. He said,
'If, then, we can find a man with the brilliant oratory of Canning, and the sterling honesty of Althorp, it is to such a man that the destiny of this country and the prospects of Ireland ought to be consigned. The University of Oxford, overflowing with bigotry, might indeed reject such a man, but I feel persuaded the great county of Lancaster would never fail him, nor would the country at large cease to celebrate his pure and immortal fame.'
This is Mr. Gladstone's memorable reply :
'I will only say that in my opinion those who wish to preserve the Church of England in the position of dignity, stability, and of utility which she now holds, will do well to found her claims upon the labours she performs, upon the services she renders, and upon the affections she attracts from the masses of the people, including that vast number within her communion, and the no small number of those who are beyond her pale, and that those will not do wisely who
Mr. Gladstone's Declaration.
venture her fortunes on such a crazy argument,-if I may use such an expression as that,—which applies to the Established Church of Ireland, with its handful of adherents, applies with equal force to the Church of England, with its millions upon millions of supporters. In the settlement of the Irish Church that Church as a State-Church must cease to exist.
I am not going to discuss the respective merits of " levelling up" or "levelling down," but "equality," understood in the sense of grants from the exchequer in order to bring the general population of Ireland up to the level of the Establishment, or understood in the sense of plans for dividing and redistributing the income and revenues of the Establishment in salaries and stipends to the clergy of the several communities. These are measures which, whether they would have been beneficial or not at other times, have now, in my opinion, passed beyond all bounds of possibility ; and it is vain and idle for us, as practical men, charged with practical duties, to take them or to keep them in our midst. My opinion, then, is, that religious equality is a phrase which requires further development, and I will develop it further by saying that in religious equality I, for my part, include in its fullest extent the word—the very grave word I do not deny, and I think we cannot be too careful to estimate its gravity before we take a conclusive step-the very grave word dis-establishment. If we are, in my judgment, to do any good at all by meddling with the Church in Ireland, it must be by putting a period to its existence as a State-Church. No doubt it is a great and a formidable operation. To constitute into a body of Christians, united only by a voluntary tie, those who have now for nearly three centuries been associated more or less closely with the State—under the Tudors directly associated with the State, and by the Act of Union, seventy years ago, brought still more closely into relationship with the civil power-that is a great and a formidable task ; yet my persuasion is, that in removing privileges and restraint together, in granting freedom in lieu of monopoly, a task will be proposed to us which is not beyond the courage and the statesmanship of the British Legislature.'
Here is the new platform for the whole Liberal party, and here is an object worthy of the highest ambition of the greatest statesman. And, whatever distrust of Mr. Gladstone may have been felt by some of the members of this party before these words were uttered, there is now no room for the vestige of such a feeling. Mr. Gladstone's intellect is of a peculiar character, but it has one marked distinction; it never goes back. Whatever height it attains, it keeps. Nor does it ever narrow. Most statesmen change their opinions in an arbitrary and unequal manner. They suddenly become broad in one direction, while remaining strait' in another. This is not Mr. Gladstone's case. His development is singularly progressive and equal. Whatever new truth he sees he holds with a tenacity from which nothing can detach him. It is this, and the assurance of his faithfulness and sincerity, which have secured to him the confidence of the nation. With this conspicuous virtue he has, at the same time, one equally conspicuous failing. He gives largely, but he seldom gives wholly. He is like the boy who cheerfully presented his friend with an orange, and then asked for a little of the peel. He likes to keep back just a little. This characteristic was seen in the Reform Bill debates of 1866, and has been rather ludicrously conspicuous in the two Church-rate Bills which have borne his name. But the right honourable gentleman improves, and, as was once said of a comparatively worthless man, we are all proud of him.'
But because Mr. Gladstone has made this declaration it does not follow that the Irish Church question is settled. We have been, until now, like an army waiting for the standard of battle to be raised. Mr. Gladstone has raised it, and in words that have gone through the whole Liberal host, has proclaimed the terms of the war. It is no exaggeration to say that he has undertaken the hardest and the most difficult task that has been undertaken by any modern English statesman. Vested interests are remarkable for their tenacity of life, but vested ecclesiastical interests are the most difficult of all to deal with. When no actual danger has threatened the State Churches their adherents have sometimes wrought themselves up into a state bordering upon savage ferocity in their defence. They have ruthlessly assailed reputations, impeached character, and imputed motives, in a manner that would disgrace any ordinary controversy, and that is utterly unworthy of the discussion of a great religious and national question. Mr. Gladstone, and those who will act most prominently with him, will need all the support that statesmen ever needed in the day of conflict. We ask those whom these words may reach that this support be given earnestly, ungrudgingly, and without intermission. The work to be done during the next two years will, in our judgment, exceed the work that has ever been necessary to carry a great public
Happily there are those who can do it, and who have the heart to do it.
It is to be regretted that on this question, which, if it is to be settled at all, must be settled on the basis of principle, Mr. Bright should have uttered words which may yet tend to discord and division ; and we wonder that a statesman of his experience should have dreamed, before the battle has begun, of offering terms to the enemy. It is possible, as Mr. Bright knows, to be moderate and practical without being rash, and without sacrificing consistency of principle or wisdom of action.
Duty of Nonconformists.
We are perfectly well aware that in questions which excite strong feelings, it is often necessary, in the end, to make a compromise. But there is a difference between doing this reluctantly and doing it spontaneously and cheerfully. For our part we should view with profound reluctance the gift of any money to any of the denominations in Ireland. We cannot see that they have the smallest claim to it, and we should be sorry that the English Government should once again adopt the vicious principle of the payment in any way, of all sects, or of a single sect. This is what Mr. Bright's proposal involves: this is his proposal. It is a pity that he should have said a word, at such a crisis as this, to cause opposition to any part of the proposed settlement of the Irish Church difficulty. It is not, of course, always possible to secure unity of thought with unity of action, but it is possible to avoid provoking disunion.
This particular question now rests, in great measure, with the Nonconformist body in this kingdom. They have before them an opportunity of testifying to their views in such a way as may secure their early and final adoption by the whole English nation. May they have charity of spirit, purity of aim, and strength of arm wherewith to win the victory. May they be worthy of their great principles, and remember that the end of this contest may, as in our judgment it will, do more to purify and extend Christian truth and to bring peace upon the land than anything that has been done in all the ages that are past.
[*** Since the above article was in type Mr. Gladstone has given notice of the Resolutions which he intends to propose on the Irish Church. They are as follows :
Resolved, 1. That in the opinion of this House, it is necessary that the Established Church of Ireland should cease to exist as an establishmentdue regard being had to all personal interests and to all individual rights of property.
2. That, subject to the foregoing considerations, it is expedient to prevent the creation of new personal interests, by the exercise of any public patronage, and to confine the operations of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of Ireland to objects of immediate necessity, or involving individual rights, pending the final decision of Parliament.
*3. That å humble address be presented to her Majesty, humbly to pray, that with a view to the purposes aforesaid, her Majesty will be graciously pleased to place at the disposal of Parliament her interest in the temporalities of the archbishoprics, bishoprics, and other ecclesiastical dignities and benefices in Ireland, and in the custody thereof.' We need not say that these resolutions commend themselves entirely to our judgment, and that, in our opinion, they should receive the heartiest support of all the members of the Liberal party, and most especially of the Nonconformists.]