presented a Petition from Barnsley, praying for a Commutation of Tithes. The petitioners stated, that they paid tithes to persons who performed no spiritual duties among them, and whom they never saw; and they mentioned a remarkable instance of a district in which there were twenty-five livings with only two incumbents. The noble Lord also adverted to a remarkable instance, in the diocese of Ely, of the accumulation of Church livings, one of them of the value of 6.000l., and Church dignities, in the hands of one person; namely, a prebend of Ely, the rectory of Bexwell, the rectory of Felt-well St. Mary, the rectory of Feltwell St. Nicholas, the vicarage of Waterbeach, and, 928 lastly, the living of Wisbeach. These were curious instances of non-residence and an abuse of patronage; and it had been said, that the Chancellor was not altogether exempt from blame on this last head, as the patronage of one of the livings was in the Crown.
The Lord Chancellor
believed that his noble friend alluded to a statement in one of the public journals, in which he had been commented upon in no very measured terms, for having been a party to increasing the pluralities of a clergyman.
The Lord Chancellor
said, he could assure their Lordships that that statement, so far as he was concerned in it, was erroneous, and that the author of it had misled his noble friend. There was a certain living, the living, he believed, of Wisbeach, or some such name, — the presentation to which was alternately in the Great Seal and the Bishop of Ely. Upon the application of the Bishop of Ely, Lord Eldon had given up his turn to present to the Bishop, who was anxious to provide for a son, or a son-in-law, or some other relative. The consequence of this was, of course, that the next two presentations were in the Great Seal. Shortly after he had the honour of being appointed to the custody of the Great Seal, he received a letter, written in the hand of a person apparently infirm, but certainly not in the hand-writing of the Bishop, which was very different. The letter was signed with the Bishop's name, and the purport of it was a request that he would give up the next presentation—so that then the Great Seal would have had the three subsequent presentations. Recollecting, however, that if he acceded to this request, he should be doing a favour to the present Bishop at the expense of the next Bishop, he thought it right to pause before he did anything of the kind. He took no notice, therefore, of this letter. About three weeks afterwards he had received another letter, in the same handwriting, and bearing the same signature. He could hardly believe that it was written by the same person. He could not believe that the party, whose signature it bore, knew any thing of it. The letter was an application to him upon totally different grounds, so much so, that it gave him the idea that the presentation was in the Bishop, and not in the Great Seal. The letter stated, 929 that the author of it had written to him (the Lord Chancellor) before; but that he supposed that his letter had not come to hand, from its not having been answered. It requested an answer by return of post, and stated, that if no answer was sent, silence would be taken for consent, and the presentation would be made. In consequence of that letter, he wrote down to the party, whose signature was attached to the letter, desiring that no nomination should be made till he had seen his noble and learned friend Lord Eldon. That noble Lord had given up his turn of presentation, when Lord Chancellor; and he therefore wrote to the right rev. Prelate, informing him that the whole matter must depend upon his noble and learned friend, Lord Eldon. His noble and learned friend gave his consent to the application, and he therefore signed the document, discharging thereby, as their Lordships would see, nothing else than a Ministerial duty. Had the patronage belonged to himself, he should not have done it, but he considered it as a matter of delicacy to Lord Eldon, and therefore acted as if the patronage had not belonged to the Great Seal, but to his noble and learned friend. He repeated, that he should not have done it had it been left to himself, for the succeeding Bishops would lose three turns, as the four next would be in the Great Seal. What the state of health of that rev. Prelate might be, he did not know. He hoped that he was in a good state of health; sure he was that the rev. Prelate ought to be in a good state of health, for he had recently given away a prebend and the valuable living of Wisbeach, which was worth 2,000l. a year, to a near relation of his own. He had suspicions—and as a Minister of the Crown he felt bound to state them—that there were persons near that rev. Prelate who disposed of his patronage in a way which he would not sanction if in perfect health. He did not know who was to blame in this business; all he knew was, that he (the Lord Chancellor) was not. Whilst he was a Minister of the Crown, he pledged himself to their Lordships to take care that the patronage of the Crown in this department would not be abused, or, that if it were abused, he would be no party to the abuse.
§ Petition laid on the Table.