This is the one adequate and consistent reason for the confiscation of the property of the Church. There is no other reason that will bear discussion to be given for what, without it, is a great moral and political wrong. In such a settled society as ours, where men reckon on what is their own, such a sweeping and wholesale transfer of property cannot be justified, on a mere balance of probable expediency in the use of it. Unless it is as a punishment for gross neglect and abuse, as was alleged in the partial confiscations of the sixteenth century, or unless it is called for as a step to break down what can no longer be tolerated, like slavery, there is no other name for it, in the estimate of justice, than that of a deep and irreparable wrong. This is certainly not the time to punish the Church when it never was more improving and more unsparing of sacrifice and effort. But it may be full time to stop a career which may render success more difficult for schemes ahead, which make no secret of their intention to dispense with religion. This, however, is not what most Englishmen wish, whether Liberals or Conservatives, or even Nonconformists; and without this end there is no more justice in disendowing a great religious corporation like the Church, than in disendowing the Duke of Bedford or the Duke of Westminster. Of course no one can deny the competence of Parliament to do either one or the other; but power does not necessarily carry with it justice, and justice means that while there are great and small, rich and poor, the State should equally protect all its members and all its classes, however different. Revolutions have no law; but a great wrong, deliberately inflicted in times of settled order, is more mischievous to the nation than even to those who suffer from it. History has shown us what follows from such gratuitous and wanton wrong in the bitter feeling of defeat and humiliation lasting through generations. But worse than this is the effect on the political morality of the nation; the corrupting and fatal consciousness of having once broken through the restraints of recognised justice, of having acquiesced in a tempting but high-handed wrong. The effects of disendowment concern England and its morality even more deeply than they do the Church.
THE NEW COURT
Guardian, 15th May 1889.