HARDY v. GLADSTONE.
THE debate on the Irish Church gave an admirable oppor- tunity. to Mr. Gathorne Hardy and Mr. Gladstone to address indirectly that great University constituency for the suffrages of which they are to compete at the next election on one of those subjects which lie nearest to its heart. We are afraid we must admit that the able Conservative who represents Leominster has made a great point for himself in the coming contest by the speech he delivered on that occa- sion; and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the other hand, while raising his reputation as a Liberal politician, nay, with thinking men, not only as a Liberal politician but as a Churchman and a Christian, by the admirable speech of Tuesday night, has taken another step towards that all but inevitable doom which, if not at the next election, before many years are over, must transfer him from the representation of a learned corporation always in the rear of the political thought of England, to the representation of some great city or populous county-division which leads the van. Mr. Hardy's speech was a masterly speech considered in relation to his candidature for Oxford University. Mr. Gladstone's speech was a rash and almost a reckless speech considered in the same light; but considered in relation to the duties of the Liberal party and his own political future it was a speech to increase our confidence in his wisdom and eo raise our estimate of his prescience. It is scarcely necessary to observe that the election for the University of Oxford will, since the admission of voting-papers, be determined in a greater degree by the country clergy—and in a greater degree by the obscurer country clergy—than ever before. And we think it is equally obvious that Mr. Gathorne Hardy has hit and the Chancellor of the Exchequer missed— we do not mean involuntarily, for we believe that his duties as a statesman have been deliberately weighed, and have been found to outweigh his policy as a representative—the tone which will best recommend itself to the country clergy in dealing with the Anglo-Irish Establishment. No doubt the divergence between Mr. Hardy's and Mr. Gladstone's line of thought on Mr. Dillwyn's motion is at first sight not very wide. Mr. Hardy does not maintain that the position of the Irish Church is satisfactory. Theoretic- ally he half concedes that it is not so. On the other hand, Mr. Gladstone does not maintain that there is any visible or practical remedy for its evils in the present state of public .opinion; on the contrary, he positively refuses to pledge the Government even to attempt a cure. Theoretically therefore Mr. Hardy agrees with Mr. Gladstone that there is an anomaly ; practically Mr. Gladstone completely agrees with Mr. Hardy that the anomaly cannot now be diminished or removed. And yet the impression made on politicians of all kinds, especially on the country clergy, will be as opposite as possible. Mr. Hardy's speech will inspire the Conservative clergy with unlimited confidence, and Mr. Gladstone's with almost unlimited distrust. It is worth while looking a little .closer at the reason of this contrast between political courses which, in sailor's language, might be said to be within half a point or so of each other.
The real difference between them lies in the use which the two statesmen respectively make of the anomalous position of the Estublished Church of Ireland as the Church of the Mino- rity. Mr. Hardy puts it with admirable tact to the same kind of use to which country clergymen in their sermons put objections to the Christian religion,—the safety-valve use, —the 'triumphant-candour' use, —the refuted objector's use,—the value of which every Clergyman, at least every Conservative Clergyman, knows perfectly well. The ecclesiastical mind is quite aware that, without admitting an anomaly or a difficulty or an objection of some kind, almost any argument would look suspicious. Oxford has taught the clergy through Bishop Butler that all the difficulties which occur in Nature may be expected to recur in Revelation, till they have learned to associate the idea of a difficulty contumeliously treated and obliged to surrender at discretion withothe idea of truth itself. Mr. Matthew Arnold tells us that a member of Parliament once broke out to him in praise of anomalies. An anomaly,' he said, in any practical institution was rather a recom- mendation to his mind than otherwise. If there were no anomaly in a practical measure, he should think it a suspicious matter throwing doubt over its practical char- acter.' And Conservative clergymen have undoubtedly the same feeling in a very high degree. They vividly feel anomalies pressing on them at all points. Dissenters are anoma- lies, pews are anomalies, unmanageable vestry meetings are anomalies, and yet, as they well know, all these are anomalies which not only do not seriously menace the Church and its authority, but bring home, to their own minds at least, a very keen sense of its invulnerability. Therefore to the country clergy Mr. Hardy took, we suspect, a very much more impressive view of the Irish Church Establishment than Mr. Whiteside, whose absolute denial of all theoretic difficulty in the matter may have been suitable to the more confident intel- lectual atmosphere of the Celtic Protestant University, but would not have been calculated to inspire the country clergy of Oxford with that feeling of a safe speaker which with them carries so much weight. It is not safe to argue as if every- thing were plain sailing. The Oxford tone at least does not admit of it. You should always have a difficulty, but answer it with overwhelming force, and make it the scapegoat to repre- sent the whole weakness of your side of the case. It answers the purpose of a moral ventilator. The uncomfortable side of your mind is drained off in that difficulty, and the positive side remains much less restless and more contented. Now Mr. Hardy confessed the difficulty. It was not in itself desirable that the State Church should be the Church of a small minority of the people,—perhaps in itself undesirable; —still when it is so, and in such a case as this, when the principle of the Reformation, the Act of Settlement, the Act of Union, and the Compromise of 1829, all demand that it should remain as it is, the little difficulty about its being the Church of a small minority entirely disappears. Besides, do not the people of Ireland love it, though they don't profit by it? "This agitation, like others in England," said Mr. Hardy, "came from above, and not from below. The people were told that they had grievances which they did not feel. But was that so? On the contrary, the peasantry of Ireland found in the clergy their best, their warmest, and their kindest friends. It had been the case over and over again that these poor peo- ple, though of a different creed, had sent home sums of money from America and other places to which they had emigrated, to be distributed by the clergy among their families and friends, rather than seal it to the ministers of their own religion." Now that is turning the flank of a difficulty in the most effective way. Nothing could give the English clergy a better guarantee for Mr. Hardy's absolute and final faithfulness to the Anglo-Irish Establishment than that im- plied assertion that the English Chao:his after all dearer to the majority of Irishmen than their own. The anomaly is ad- mitted—which satisfies their theoretic judgment ; but then the speaker gives intellectual bail as it were for his own con- duct with regard to the anomaly, and puts it out of the ques- tion that he can ever attach too much weight to it, by frankly confessing his own belief that the Protestant clergy are pre- ferred on the whole by the Catholic peasantry to their own teachers. After that every clergyman must feel safe.. The Nemesis of intellectual logic has been appeased; and the highest pledge of priictical loyalty has been given.
Mr. Gladstone's course is very different. He, too, admits the anomaly. He, too, shows that in the present state of public opinion no practical measure could be taken to remove it. But he does not treat the anomaly as a mere theoretic affair, —a safety-valve for objections which he has no wish to see gaining any significance. He admits the practical fetters of public opinion, but he evidently regrets those fetters, and
does what he can to remove them. He contemplates a time when the anomaly will become untenable, and when that time comes he would be prepared to assail it. Hence his bias is wholly different from Mr. Hardy's. Instead of judiciously availing himself of the present state of public opinion to put the theoretic difficulty as if it were one of that kind which would render life itself impracticable if accorded too much significance,—which is the treatment the old-school clergy would like,—he clearly contemplates an improvement in public opinion which will render active measures possible for giving back to the whole Irish people the ecclesias- tical revenues yielded by the Irish soil. "I am bound to say," says Mr. Gladstone, in a passage which clearly points to the only statesmanlike measure of justice,—not the disendowment of all faiths,tat the endowment of all,—"I am bound to say that in the times in which we live it is not too hastily to be assumed that the exclusive and peculiar position of the Irish Established Church is to be regarded as necessarily useful to the progress of Protestantism. No doubt it relieves members of the Protestant Church in a great degree from the duty and business of making provision for their own spiritual requirements, but it is a mistake to suppose that the exclusive establishment of our religion is in all circumstances favourable to the progress of that religion. I am quite sure if we could suppose such a thing as the establishment of the Roman Catholic religion at this moment in this country, that it would be anything but favourable to the progress of the Roman Catholic religion here." Now that is the kind of argument to bring home to us the glaring injustice of the exclusive establishment of the faith of a minority,— the sort of argument to trouble the conscience, and render the clergy of our Church anything but satisfied with the anomaly so comfortably smoothed away by Mr. Hardy. It appeals, too, to their honest faith in the power of truth to win its way without being backed up by the support of greater wealth.
Mr. Gladstone's speech will touch the hearts of many of his constituents with the shadow of a coming change, the forebod- ing of stricter justice in the distribution of the blessings of a national establishment. Mr. Hardy's speech will tend at least to soothe them back again into satisfaction with the practical anomalies of life. If after such a rivalry' as this the great, serene University, whom we all honour while we try to goad her into a deeper sympathy with the wants of the people of the -United Kingdom, should again choose Mr. Gladstone, we should begin to believe for the first time that Oxford may not only temper the Conservatism of the country with humane and kindly culture, but may deepen the generous trustfulness of its faith, and enlarge the scope of its justice.