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basis for an enduring national system
What course is the Government to take? A great responsibility rests upon the Ministry, for a new situation has been created which, if carefully handled, may have within it the elements of peace. We do not intend at the present juncture to attempt to dogmatize on the right procedure, the case is too serious for dogmatism; but we wish to state the possible courses which may be followed. The first is to retain the Government Bill and to come to a final decision on the existing law by carrying the case to the House of Lords. Such a course involves several difficulties. In the first place, the House of Lords cannot sit before November, and in the meantime the discussion of the Education Bill in the Upper Chamber must be postponed, while the educational administration throughout the country will be in a condition of chaos. If the Lords support the Court of Appeal, then the Bill will have to be amended to correspond. But we would point out that it is by no means certain that the Lords will do anything of the kind. Speaking as laymen, it seems to us that the arguments of the Court of Appeal may be disputed, and we must also remember that the opposite view was taken by the law officers of the present (and we presume also of the late) Government, by three Judges of the Divisional Court, and by Lord Justice Moulton. If the Lords, therefore, should upset the verdict of the lower Court, the whole Act of 1902 will simply appear on the list of repealed statutes. In either case the decision would have no practical importance, and be interesting only as a study in interpretation. The second course is to accept the Court of The Spectator.
Appeal's judgment as final, and make Clause I of the new Bill declaratory instead of amending. In that event the discussion would go on as before. The Lords in October would amend reasonably or unreasonably, and the fight would be fought out to its conclusion. But a new element would have entered into the discussion, for a new alternative would be possible, which might weaken alike the opposition and defence. This new alternative is the third course we would call attention to. It involves letting the decision of the Court of Appeal remain as final, and making it the basis of a compromise. The Government Bill would be dropped, and a new one introduced making provision for a kind of universal contracting out of Voluntary schools. It would be necessary to have the majority of the managers popularly elected, or nominated by a popularly elected body, in order to vindicate the central doctrine of the Government's policy, and some arrangements would have to be made for taking part of the cost of the provision and maintenance of the buildings from the shoulders of the managers. In some such scheme it seems to us there is the basis for a compromise, and we would earnestly appeal to the Government and the country during the temporary lull which the Recess gives to consider whether a long, bitter, and dangerous fight may not be averted by making use of this unexpected peripeteia which the Courts have sprung upon us. It is said that once at Samoa the British and German ships were on the point of firing on each other, when a great storm arose, which separated them, and averted war. May not in this case the Court of Appeal be allowed to play the part of the Pacific hurricane?
THE POPE AND THE SEPARATION LAW.
The principle that religion has nothing to do with politics is perpetually appealed to and perpetually shown to be untrue. Religion has to live in the world, and so must from time to time come in contact with it. The two regions are distinct, but their frontiers march, and disputes will occasionally arise about their respective frontiers. If the period of religious wars is happily over, the period of diplomatic and Parliamentary conflicts which has succeeded shows no present signs of drawing to an end. The Encyclical Letter of the Pope to the French Episcopate is an unusually conspicuous example of a recurrent process. It seemed at one time that the threatened strife between Church and State in France had been averted by the fall of M. Combes, and the accession to office of a Ministry representing a somewhat milder type of Radicalism. Under this new influence the Separation Law took a form less hostile to the Catholic Church. Several of the provisions at first included in it were modified, the Radical amendments were rejected, and in the end it was thought by probably a majority of Frenchmen that the Church had come out better than had at one time seemed possible. The main feature of the Separation Law is the method in which it disposes of the Churches. They have become the property of the State-the cathedrals of the Central Government, the parish churches of the municipalities. Their nominal owners are bound, however, to return them to their former owners, if by December 11th next these owners are represented by the Associations Cultuelles, the formation of which is prescribed by the law. It is with these associations that the State will do business, and if they are not formed by the
prescribed date no further provision is made for the transfer of the fabrics. They will remain public property, and be used for secular purposes or allowed to go to ruin.
If the French bishops had been allowed to decide for themselves what attitude they should take up towards the Separation Law, there is good reason to believe that by this time the associations in question would have been in course of creation. But though the Pope asked the advice of the bishops, it was individually not collectively, and he was careful to explain that his conclusion would not necessarily be in agreement with the majority of the opinions submitted to him. He would review the situation in the light of those opinions, but his eventual action would be quite independent of them. Pius X. has been as good as his word. He speaks, indeed, of confirming "the almost unanimous decision" of the French bishops. It is permissible, however, to suspect that the unanimity of which the Pope speaks is an unanimity of submission, not an unanimity of counsel. Probably all, or nearly all, the bishops assured the Pope of their willingness to obey his commands, whatever those commands might be, and it is this rather than any reasons they may have given for commanding something else that he has in his mind. Certainly the condemnation of the new law is more precise and final than any assembly of French bishops would have been likely to frame if left to themselves. The Pope declares that the associations allowed to be set up are wholly inadmissible. They constitute "a violation of the sacred rights pertaining to the very life of the Church." Nor does he look forward to the substitution of any less ob
jectionable kind of association. To make such a substitution possible "the immutable rights of the Roman Pontiff and of the bishops, and their authority over the sacred edifices," must be irrevocably secured. It is certain that the Republican Government will secure nothing of this kind. It will not vest what it regards as the property of the French people in any foreign potentate, temporal or spiritual. The Pope seemingly is alive to this certainty, for he urges the bishops to take all legal means to "organize religious worship." In this task they may rely on the help of the Pope's counsel and authority. It would be more to the purpose if they could also rely upon his purse. Even then the immediate building of some 40,000 churches would be out of the question, and we are left to suppose that the Pope regards the disappearance of religious services throughout a great part of France as a lesser evil than the acceptance of the Government's terms.
It is difficult to believe that Pius X. has come to this decision on the grounds disclosed in the Encyclical. The religious condition of France is probably described with substantial accuracy by the Minister of Public Worship in an interview with certain journalists. There are parishes, he says, passionately devoted to religious practices. But there are many others where they are maintained merely by the force of habit. In these last public worship would at once cease, and "the contagion of example would gradually produce similar results elsewhere." Is this a state of things which the Pope, or those to whom he has listened, can be supposed to contemplate with calmness? It is just possible that it may be. It is possible, that is, that he may look forward to such an outburst of indignation on the part of the French people as would be fatal to the Government which had provoked it. The elec
tions, he would admit, showed that the majority of Frenchmen had accepted the Separation Law, and were prepared to give a hearty support to the Government which had passed it. But then, the law thus accepted was supposed to be a law which kept the Churches and the services as they are, and only relieved the State from the obligation of paying for them. When it is realized that, instead of this, the churches will be closed and the customary services no longer performed, the storm thereby aroused will be too violent for any Government to weather. This is one possible explanation of the Pope's action. A second is that he may think that acceptance of the Government's terms would not in the end have been of any avail. When the law was still before the Legislature, it was said by a section of the Radicals that they did not regard it as more than an instalment of what they hoped to get in the end. If this view had been put forward merely by the rank and file of the party, it might not have meant much. But it was also adopted by M. Clemenceau, and M. Clemenceau is to-day the most powerful man in the Cabinet and in France. What is there to prevent him from giving effect to this view of the law in some future session? To our minds, it is a sufficient answer to this question to say that while M. Clemenceau is an extremist in religion he is an opportunist in politics. He has shown this in his relations with the Socialists, and he may probably be trusted to show it again in his relations with the Church. Attractive as the spectacle of closed churches may be to his imagination, the ill-feeling to which it will give rise in a large number of his countrymen, and the political uncertainty and confusion which this ill-feeling might evoke over a wider area, will be distasteful to his good sense. Even if his influence is as supreme as the Pope possibly sup
poses, he will think twice before using it in the way the Pope imagines, and in that case Pius X. is provoking disaster with no adequate cause.
We have great faith, however, in the good sense of the French people, and in the desire of the great majority of French Catholics to live at peace with their fellow-countrymen. That no obvious way out of the difficulty created by the Pontifical action presents itself at this moment is no reason why one should not be found later on. When both parties have such good cause to desire its discovery it is hard to believe that things will be allowed to go on to the result for which the Pope is apparently prepared. Nothing however, would be so well calculated to provoke this result-a result which all, whatever may be their religion, who wish France to be tranquil and
strong must agree in deprecating-as the adoption by the Government of the policy hinted at by M. Briand. If no modus vivendi is arrived at, and the churches are consequently closed, the suffering inflicted on the Catholic population will be quite keen enough without making things worse by forbidding the assembling of Catholic congregations in private houses or the building of new churches. French ideas of liberty are often different from ours, but we cannot believe that such acts as these would approve themselves to the judgment either of the Cabinet or of the Legislature. In a controversy of this sort victory commonly falls to the side which keeps its temper best, and best resists the temptations to assume that the solution which most irritates an opponent is the one most to be desired in the public interest.
The new fashion in Parliaments is decidedly extending among despotic States. Its latest adherent is Persia. As yet it is impossible to say whether the events there herald a serious change or will end as farcically and fruitlessly as most political events do among the modern descendants of Cyrus and Artaxerxes.
So far we have scarcely more than two bits of evidence to go upon-the Shah's account of his rescript as communicated by the Persian legations in Europe, and the Times's account of the events leading up to it. The Shah, who amusingly prefaces the tale of his surrender by stating that "since his accession to the throne he has always had the intention to introduce real and efficient reforms in all the departments of the State so as to further the wellbeing of his people," announces a National Council at Teheran, to be com
posed of representatives of the princes, clergy, Kadjars (the ruling Tartar tribe to which the Shah belongs), nobles, merchants, and tradesmen, who are to be elected by their peers. The Council "shall deliberate on all important affairs of State, and shall have the power and right to express its views with freedom and full confidence with regard to all reforms which may be necessary to the welfare of the country." Its bills will be transmitted to the Shah by the First Minister, and if signed by him will become law. It is to frame its own rules of procedure, subject to the Shah's signature.
The Times's story of the birth of this Constitution is very interesting. It starts from the undoubted fact that the Shah's Government has long been excessively bad. The Shah himself is, as is well known, a selfish voluptuary whose one preoccupation has been to
find money for squandering on the luxuries of a corrupt Court. The utter decadence of the Persian political system, the weakness and corruption of the administration, the oppression and grinding taxation of the people, have been the theme of every writer on Persia for some time past. No less agreed is the general fact of the Shah's indebtedness to Russia. The former Grand Vizier, the Atabeg-Azam, initiated a policy of loans from the Russian Bank, guaranteed by the Russian Government; and in this way the Shah has borrowed about four millions, which he has spent on Court luxuries. In 1903 the Atabeg-Azam gave way to a Grand Vizier equally oppressive and less masterful, and not long afterwards the flow of Russian money stopped owing to the Japanese war. There followed the eclipse of Russia; the exhibition by Japan of what an Asiatic nation might do if it took the trouble; finally the convocation of the Russian Duma, which included a number of Mohammedan Tartar representatives from Central Asia. All these things would encourage a revolution, which according to the Times took the following course: Its leaders were the Mohammedan clergy, whose position in the Shiite Islam of Persia is more important than elsewhere. Last December the clergy of Teheran went on strike for a month, by taking sanctuary in a shrine and refusing to discharge their judicial functions. The Shah appeased them by promises, which he subsequently broke; friction was renewed; and in a riot on July 11, a Seyyid, a descendant of the Prophet, was shot by the soldiers. The priests again took sanctuary, and finally left Teheran in a body to journey to the Tomb of Ali (the sonin-law of the Prophet and the great saint of the Shiah sect) in Mesopotamia. Their adherents in Teheran, fearing Government vengeance, took refuge, to the number of 13,000, in the
grounds of the British Legation. Shah, in face of so unparalleled a religious and national scandal, had to give in, dismiss his Grand Vizier, appoint another, and grant the Constitution above described.
Such is the story, which we have as yet little means of checking. Certain acute foreign critics have suggested that the whole thing is at bottom merely a British intrigue, taking advantage of Russia's temporary effacement to overthrow the dominant Russophile element in Persian politics. Some color is given, it must be confessed, to this suspicion by the episode of the 13,000 refugees at the British Legation, coupled with the fact that the party overthrown is certainly the Russophile party. But there seems evidence of a genuine popular upheaval, and undoubtedly the Shah's misrule provided ample justification for one. And the contagion of events in Russia is bound to be felt in Central Asia without needing any Macchiavellian British intrigue to spread it. What the prospects of the quasi-Parliament are one must doubt. The immediate causes of Persian misery and oppression are personal; and it will be hard for the Oriental mind to appreciate such a circuitous way of mending them as that of constitutional reform. Moreover, the probability of the Shah's acceding to the National Council's demands is small, because any reform is bound to aim at curtailing the personal extravagances of his own Court expenditure. It would be hard, too, for him to reform the abuses of the provincial governors, who have become nearly as independent of central control as the ancient satraps, and seem even more rapacious and corrupt. It would be so much simpler to dismiss the Council as soon as the ferment has settled down, and an Eastern monarch is untroubled by scruples about breaking promises. The only chance would be if some element in Persian society