HC Deb 25 August 1831 vol 6 cc589-92
Mr. Sadler

presented a Petition from a large body of Individuals residing at Kendal, on the subject of the enforcement of old claims for Tithes, now made upon them by Trinity College, Cambridge, and supported by the process of the Court of Exchequer. The petitioners alleged, that the claims now set up by the College were in direct defiance of an established modus that had existed time immemorially at Kendal; and they alleged that they should hardly, if at all, be able to meet the claim of the College, by direct legal evidence; as those persons who held the lands in respect of which this claim was made, and who were known by the name of "statesmen," had destroyed many of their old deeds, in consequence of their never anticipating that such a claim would be set up against an established modus. The difficulty to which they were thus put, they alleged to arise from the non-existence of any limitation to the assertion of rights by the Church. The rights of the Crown, which had formerly been subject to no limitation, were now restrained from being enforced, except within a certain period of time; and the petitioners prayed, that what had thus been done with respect to the rights of the Crown, might be done with regard to the rights of the Church. They referred to the Act that had been introduced by Lord Tenterden last year into the other House, and which they prayed might be adopted. By that Act, the right of claim was to be limited to sixty years. Had that Bill been now in force on land, the grievance of which the petitioners complained would not have existed; for the petitioners distinctly asserted, that no claim of the kind now set up, had been made on the tenants, before the period at which Trinity College came into possession, which event took place at a time much more distant than sixty years.

Mr. Alderman Thompson

confirmed the statements of the petition, to which he gave his cordial support.

Petition read. On the Motion, that it be laid on the Table,

Mr. Sadler

said, the proceedings affected a part only of the district, although the modus the petitioners spoke of was paid by the whole of the tenants of those lands on none of whom this claim was ever before made.

Sir John Newport

said, that that which had been already done with respect to the claims of the Crown, ought to be done with regard to the claims of the Church. A limit ought to be fixed, beyond which the Church should not be allowed to set up a claim that had not been enforced within that period. He had the particulars of some cases for claims of what was called the minister's money in Ireland. The claims of the payment of that money were often suffered to lie by for fifteen or sixteen years, and the whole accumulated claim was brought upon the tenant, who was utterly unprepared for such a demand, and utterly unable to pay it. Many of these persons against whom this unjust demand was made, could pay the annual sum if then demanded, but they could not pay 12l. or 15l., and it was a most iniquitous proceeding, that the property of these poor people should be sold to make good so unreasonable a charge. The reason of suffering it to remain unclaimed so long was, that the rate of per centage paid for collection was less on a large than on a small sum, and the poor tenant was thus exposed to unexpected demands, sometimes of a ruinous nature, because the owner of the tithes could gather them in at less cost. That system ought to be remedied.

Mr. Crampton

said, that the same ground of complaint to which this petition referred did not exist in Ireland; in the year 1816, an Act was passed, by which the right of the Church to demand these tithes was limited to six years. He was therefore much surprised at the statement of his hon. friend that fifteen years arrears of minister's money had been demanded.

Mr. Hume

took that opportunity of calling the attention of the Government to a statement that had been made to him, that very distressing and disgraceful scenes were now going on in Edinburgh respecting the payment of demands by the clergy. He understood that in many cases the goods of the parties had been seized and put up to sale; but so strong was the feeling on the subject, that nobody would buy them. If the Lord Advocate had been in his place, perhaps some answer might have been given.

Mr. O'Connell,

with reference to the Minister's money in Ireland, said, that he had often given professional opinions in Dublin, the effect of which was, to declare that no levy could take place for minister's money, for any demand extending beyond the period of a-year. The misfortune, however, was, that there was a Court of Conscience in Dublin, which was a perfect nuisance. In that Court these claims could always be enforced upon the poor, who could not afford to resist them by carrying the matter before another tribunal. That Court was presided over by an Alderman of Dublin, who gained 1,500l. a-year from it. The decree was generally made there on the oath of the plaintiff; insomuch that he (Mr. O'Connell) knew of two parties who had six times been plaintiff and defendant against each other in respect of the same demand. In each instance the demand was answered in favour of the plaintiff. He trusted, that in the bill for the improvement of the administration of justice in Ireland, a clause would be introduced, preventing the clergy from enforcing these demands for more than one year; a declaratory clause would be quite sufficient.

Mr. John Campbell

said, that the subject of which this petition complained, had been much under his consideration. It had been his anxious desire to introduce a bill to put some limit of time to the demands of the Church, similar to those of the Crown, but the subject having been taken up by Lord Tenterden, he thought it was in better hands, and he had therefore resigned it to his Lordship. He understood, that the bill which the noble and learned Lord introduced, had alarmed the bench of Bishops, who had given some opposition to it. However, notwithstanding that opposition, he trusted that the bill would pass the other House. Perhaps he ought to add, for the satisfaction of those who feared anything that went to affect the claims of the Church, that there was a clause in the bill, giving all parties a period of three years, before the Act took effect, to bring forward their claims.

Mr. Sadler

said, the petitioners were of opinion that Lord Tenterden's proposed act would be a great benefit to the community, if it ultimately became a law.

Petition to be printed.