§ Mr. Brougham
said, he held in his hands a petition from the minister, elders and inhabitants, of the parish of Moffat, in Scotland. He ought first to mention that the minister and elders of a parish composed what in this country was called a vestry. They formed also an ecclesiastical authority. These inhabitants, to the number of 300, had taken the precaution to obviate the effect of an objection which was sometimes made to similar petitions, that persons of tender age had been called on to sign them, to add after each signature the age of the person signing. They composed a great majority of the inhabitants of the parish arrived at the age of maturity. The petitioners stated, that in 1639 a re- 330 verend gentleman, who was a native of Moffat, had bequeathed 1,000l. sterling to lord Johnstone, the ancestor of the present family of Annandale, in order to lay out that sum in land; and out of the rents and profits of the land so purchased, to give a yearly sum to a schoolmaster in Moffat, amounting to 25l. or 26l. a year. In the next place, a sum of 10l. or 12l. was to be given to an usher; and in the third place, between, 7l. and 8l. was to be paid to a writing master. The school was to be a grammer school, and the master and usher were to be qualified to teach Latin. It was also directed that a sum should be laid out in the erection of a proper building for the school. They stated that they had every reason to believe that the money had been laid out, in the first instance, in the terms of the devise, as the school had been built, and the salary had always been paid to the master when there was a master, but that a vacancy was frequently allowed to happen for several years at a time. The salary, however, was always paid when there was a master. But they stated, that instead of the other salary having been paid to the usher, as was devised, it had always been paid to the parish schoolmaster. This was a deviation from the terms of the bequest, and was the more unnecessary, as about sixty years afterwards schools had been established in every parish by the legislature. They stated that the third salary had also never been paid agreeably to the bequest. The overplus of the rents and profits of the land, after paying these three salaries, were then directed to be laid out for the relief of the poor of the parish of Moffat. A school was to be instituted for the education of the poor, and the overplus, after paying the masters, was to go towards the relief of the poor. They stated that no part of this estate, or any money, had ever been procured for a master for the children of the poor, and that they had never been able to see any account of the proceeds of the lands, and what had been done with either the lands or the money. They added, that it was a great hardship to the parish to be deprived of this school, as the parish school was not by any means sufficient for the education of the whole of the children. They stated also, that the same benevolent person, a Dr. John-stone, left in the same manner 1,000l., for the purpose of giving bursaries or exhibitions to eight poor scholars of Moffat, to the university of Edinburgh, and they 331 farther stated that these exhibitions for poor scholars had never been given to the inhabitants of the parish, though repeated applications had been made for them—that they had generally been bestowed, from motives of favour or affection, on persons from other quarters. The petitioners craved generally, that inquiry should be made into the subject matter of their petition.
§ Mr. W. Douglas
said, that no man could feel more than himself the value of the labours of the hon. and learned gentleman, with respect to the education of the poor. As far, however, as regarded the money bequeathed' for the benefit of the people of Moffat, he did know from inquiry, that up to the present period the money had been constantly paid for a schoolmaster. With respect to the allegation regarding the burseries, he could only say, that young men had been regularly sent to the university of Edinburgh agreeably to the bequest. The successors of the marquis of Annandale were persons who had always been conspicuous for every thing honourable, and particularly for their charities for objects of this nature, and he was certain it would turn out on inquiry, that all the objects of the bequest had been most religiously attended to.
trusted, when it was considered that he was connected both by relationship and friendship with the family implicated in the allegations contained in the petition, the house would excuse him for saying a few words on the subject. No charges had, indeed, been made directly against that family, but still charges were indirectly made against them. He would venture to say, that there never was a set of allegations of this kind which were more likely to be groundless. He could not speak as to details, as he had never heard the subject mentioned before. The hon. and learned gentleman would, in his opinion, have exercised a sound discretion, had he waited till the arrival of the hon. member for Dumfriesshire, who was nearly related to the family in question, and acquainted with its concerns. The speech of the hon. and learned gentleman would then have gone to the world accompanied by same explanation. But he wished to observe that this was neither more nor less than a question of misappropriation of property. It therefore properly belonged to a court of law, and the petitioners might have gone with it to the court of session.
§ Mr. W. Douglas
, in explanation, observed, that two or three days ago the hon. and learned gentlemen had mentioned to him that he had received such a petition, and had asked him if he could obtain any information respecting it before he presented it to the house. In consequence he had applied to persons from Moffat in London, who told him all that they knew respecting it. They told him that the petition was signed by the clergy man, and most of the inhabitants of the parish. They told him that the salaries and allowances had been regularly paid, and that the money was left entirely at the disposal and control of the Annandale family. He could only say, that he was sure, in exercising that discretion, the family in question would always act in an honourable and upright manner.
§ Mr. Brougham
said the hon. member had partly answered for hint the charge of the noble lord. He had not only communicated the petition to that hon. gentleman, but he had also communicated: it to the right hon. gentleman who was member for Edinburgh. That right hon. gentleman, after reading the petition, had returned it to him with an answer, that he was entirely unacquainted with the circumstances stated in it. He thought he had done quite enough to save him even from the possibility of being charged with any thing like unfairness.
§ Ordered to lie on the table.