HC Deb 17 May 1825 vol 13 cc769-71
Mr. Alderman

Wood moved the second reading of this bill. The parishioners, he said, were willing to raise the tithes to 1s. in the pound, but they objected to the payment of the enormous sum of 2s. 9d., which was demanded by the incumbents of the five parishes. He challenged the parties who made this claim to prove the enrolment in the court of Chancery, of the deed which was granted in the reign of Henry 8th. No jury in England would give a verdict on the facts; but, if the incumbents and impropriators would submit their case to a jury, the parishioners would not object to such a judicial mode of determination. He denied that the parties with whom the bill originated had incited the parishioners to resist the claims of the clergy. They wished justice to be done to all the parishioners who paid tithes; for it was unjust end absurd that some houses should be burthened with a payment of 6d. and others with 9d. and 1s. Repeated conferences had been held with the clergy, and every effort had been made to bring about an amicable settlement.

Mr. W. Courtenay

considered this was an extraordinary attempt to interfere with the rights of individuals: By an act of the 37th Henry 8th, it was enacted, that a decree therein mentioned should be enrolled, after which it should have the effect of a statute. By that decree, a rate of 2s. 9d. in the pound was made payable to the persons entitled to the tithes, by the inhabitants of certain parishes in the city of London, included in that act. From that period to the present, these tithes had been dealt with by the persons entitled to them as they would have dealt with rent-charges, or any other property to which their title was unquestionable. With respect to the enrolment, the evidence of presumption with respect to an event which took place three hundred years ago would be admitted in this as it must in every other case. In the year 1647, an issue was tried, in which the question of the enrolment had arisen, and the jury upon that occasion found that the decree had been duly enrolled. Would the House, after this finding, entertain a bill, the preamble of which set forth the assumption that there had been no such enrolment? He hoped, after this statement, that such an infringement on private property would not receive the sanction of the legislature, and that the parties would not be put to the expense of going into a committee. The hon. and learned member concluded by moving that the bill be rejected.

Mr. Alderman Bridges

supported the bill, and he hoped that, notwithstanding the instances adduced by the hon. and learned gentleman, the House would do justice to the numerous individuals who had so feelingly appealed to it.

Mr. Wynn

said, that if this bill was allowed to pass through another stage, it might shake the foundation of all private property. The impropriator claimed under the law of the land, the security of an act of parliament, and the finding of a jury more than one hundred and fifty years ago. It was therefore difficult to imagine a less objectionable title. The House was not to erect itself into a court of justice, to decide private claims. If the decree had been improperly obtained, it had been open to the parties to reverse it in the House of Lords. In all cases where an invasion of this kind had been allowed, it was only where a great public benefit was to be secured by making a more than full compensation to the party deprived.

Mr. J. Smith

said, that the incumbents had a good and perfect right to enjoy the 2s. 9d. in the pound which the law allowed them.

Mr. Calcraft

said, he had been informed, that upon the trial to which the learned member for Exeter alluded, the enrolment had not been brought into question. He thought it was at least fair, that a new issue for the trial of that question should be granted. He agreed that it was of the last importance to preserve the rights of property and to maintain old and settled decisions. In the case of the fire of London, the parliament had dealt with the property of the church for the benefit of churchmen; he thought, therefore, that they might now do so for therelief of the parish. Last year he had carried a bill providing a compensation, for the rector of St. Andrew's, Holborn, and having the concurrence of the excellent duchess of Buccleuch, and of the bishop of London, he had experienced no difficulty. He wished for the trial of an issue, for the purpose of ascertaining the question of the enrolment, upon which the whole subject turned, and which would put an end to all litigation.

Mr. Courtenay

referred to the report of the case tried in 1647, in which the question of the enrolment had been raised, and decided in the affirmative.

Mr. Secretary Peel

felt it unnecessary, after the explanation given by his learned friend, to say more than a very few words on this subject. He could not but shrewdly suspect, that this bill had been drawn by the hon. Alderman (Wood) himself. At the period of passing the act the clergy made the same complaint as they did now, that "the citizens for their riches were very stout, and would not pay." The act had been passed in consequence; and now the citizens of the present day, not less stout, nor more willing to pay than those of Henry 8th's time, came down, baked by the worthy alderman, and asked the House to violate the rights of private property. During the present session an amicable arrangement had been made between the rector of the parish of Bishopsgate (the bishop of Chester) and his parishioners. He was willing that every thing which was practicable should be done to effect such arrangements wherever similar disputes existed; but he would oppose a bill which, like the present, attacked private rights.

Mr. W. Smith

agreed that the principle of the bill could not be supported.

Mr. Alderman Wood

said, that the measure before the House had not been resorted to until all means of obtaining the trial of an issue had been attempted and had failed.

The amendment was agreed to, and the bill rejected.