§ Earl Stanhope
presented a great number of petitions, purporting to be from agricultural labourers of the counties of Cambridge, Huntingdon, and Suffolk, all praying for the repeal of the Poor-law Amendment Act. The whole of these petitions, however, were signed by a rev. gentleman who acted as chairman at the different meetings.
The Earl of Radnor
rose to order. It appeared that all these petitions were signed by the same person, and were merely copies of each other, being worded precisely alike. By presenting such petitions the noble Earl was making a joke of the proceedings of their Lordships' House. They could only be received as the petitions of the rev. Mr. Maberly who had signed them.
The Bishop of Norwich
, stated that the rev. gentleman whose name 1915 was appended to all these petitions was resident within his diocese, and he was given to understand from his curate that he refused to pay him his small stipend. Now, he must say, that this was not the man who ought to stand up to excite a feeling against the law of his country.
§ Earl Stanhope
would ask whether the right rev. Prelate meant to say, that Mr. Maberly excited the people to a disobedience of the law; or that, because he was a clergyman, he had no right to an opinion?
The Bishop of Hereford
said, when a clergyman thought proper to put his single name to a dozen petitions against that which was the law of the land, his conduct could not be approved of. Mr. Maberly had gone round to different villages collecting persons with a view to excite them against the Poor-law Act. Their signatures were not appended to the petitions, but his own merely. And this person who made himself so conspicuous—this person who came forward as the defender of the poor—was driving his curate into a state of poverty, which might oblige him to seek refuge in this law for the comforts of life. He thought the right rev. Prelate was bound by every right feeling to come forward and say this is the gentleman who comes forward against a salutary and wholesome law.
§ The Duke of Richmond
expressed his disapprobation of the conduct of a clergyman who went about the country, he would not say purposely, but it was very like it, to cause agitation. In the petition the individual in question seemed to wish to inculcate charity to all men, yet what words did he use himself towards others? He said, "These unfeeling Commissioners —as unfeeling as the Secretary of State— imprisoning the poor, and allowing them scarcely a breath of air or the light of heaven." If the petitioner showed his charity thus, he might not see the light of heaven himself.
§ Petitions laid on the Table.