HC Deb 10 February 1808 vol 10 cc413-5
Mr. Dickenson

moved the order of the day for the second reading of the bill for the repeal of the act of the last session, suspending the penalties and forfeitures affecting persons accepting augmented Curacies. He stated, that the penalty of forfeiture attached by law to persons not resident accepting augmented curacies, if these persons were not resident or had no dispensation. The case of Mr. Scott, which was the sole one on which the Suspension act of last session was grounded, was exactly under the circumstances that worked this forfeiture. It was not enough that Mr. Scott pleaded ignorance of the law. That ignorance was no excuse for the breach of the law, was one of the fundamental maxims of British justice. Mr. Scott, holding the rectory of Brampton Bryan, had accepted the augmented curacy of Titley; and his rectory being thereby forfeited, the patron had granted it to Mr. Graham, who had been inducted with all the proper forms. Mr. Graham had given notice not to pay tithes under the act of last session. That act had passed by surprise.

Mr. Lockhart

defended the Suspension act of the last session, which was brought forward, not from reference to any private case, but from a regard to the general state of the clergy, whose titles were very generally threatened by the penalties and forfeitures unguardedly incurred under the act of 1796. That act had received in its last stage a clause and a title, which entirely changed its effect, without giving sufficient notice to those interested. These curacies had always before been considered as tenable with benefices, and the act of that date confirmed all tenures of that nature then existing. The subsequent forfeiture was not sufficiently published, and remained unknown and unnoticed till now brought forth to inflict unreasonable hardship. Mr. Scott might have obtained a dispensation if he had had notice. But the case was not Mr. Scott's alone, others had equally suffered; and the hardship would be general if parliament did not interfere. It was certainly but little to ask, that the short period of the Suspension act which was to run, should be allowed for the consideration of the means of remedying a grievance of so serious a nature.

Mr. Lushington

argued against the Suspension act on all the former grounds, and contended, that it would be an unwarrantable exercise of the power of parliament to interfere with the right of the patron (lord Oxford) to whom the rectory lapsed by the default of Mr. Scott, and Mr. Graham, who legally enjoyed it under the presentation of that patron, confirmed by all due forms.

Mr. Whitbread

denied that the Suspensions act of last session had been passed by surprise. That was impossible while the chair was filled as it was now. Was it possible that it could have passed the bench of bishops also, in the upper house, by surprise. The hon. gent. then went over the circumstances of Mr. Scott's case, which he contended called for relief from parliament, and for the continuance of the Suspension bill, the means of that relief could be prepared and considered.

Dr. Laurence

argued for the repeal. He repeated that the Suspension bill had passed the house in a great hurry at the close of the last session. He had made some objections to it, on first discovering it by accident in its passage; but before he could be prepared to deliver his sentiments properly it was gone to the lords.

Mr. Sheridan

finding the bill before the house, regarded it as a sort of reprimand from the lords, and a sort of episcopal repartee from the bishops, for having passed the Suspension act, and thought the house ought to receive it somewhat indignantly. If the bishops and the lords wished to stultify the house by making it indecorously undo its own act, the house ought not to spew any desire to make itself a party to that stultification. But it happened also, that the lords and the bishops could not stultify the house of commons without stultifying themselves, who had joined in the, Suspension. He entered into the circumstances of Mr. Scott's case, and insisted on the propriety of continuing the Suspension, to afford an opportunity of devising some relief. The case was general, and one noble lord had declared, that if he chose to act on the same principle, he could vacate upwards of 200 livings.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

thought that parliament had no right to interfere with the discretion of the patron of the rectory of Brampton Bryan, even though he should exercise his right in a manner that might not be agreeable to many. But it was not the right of lord Oxford and Mr. Scott alone, but the right of Mr. Graham, the present incumbent also, that was to be considered in this case. What appeared to be hardship in the exercise of discretionary right, would often appear to be no hardship, if it were necessary or convenient to give the grounds of the exercise of discretionary and absolute right. The lords by passing this bill acknowledged their share of the error in passing the Suspension act, and called upon this house for a like recantation. He should vote for the repeal.—The bill was then read second time.