HL Deb 27 July 1855 vol 139 cc1427-30

in presenting a petition from the Rev. C. Clement Layard, complaining of the refusal of the Lord Bishop of Exeter to institute him to the perpetual curacy of Escot, in the county of Devon, said the task which had been entrusted to him was not one of his own seeking, but as the grievance arose in the county with which he was connected, and the complaint was directed against the exercise of the power vested in a Member of their Lordships' House, he thought he ought not to hesitate to bring it fairly before them. Before doing so, however, having been anxious to consult the convenience of the right rev. Prelate, he had communicated with him on the subject, and he was informed, in reply, that the state of the right rev. Prelate's health would render his attendance in the House extremely inconvenient, and that he did not consider his presence essential to the proper discussion of the petition. Under those circumstances, the right rev. Prelate had requested him to state to the House his opinion that the question could be discussed there only when it should be brought upon an appeal from a court below. The right rev. Prelate then went on to observe, that he had the satisfaction of knowing that if he had done an act of injustice to the Rev. Mr. Layard, he might seek redress in an ecclesiastical or temporal court, as he might be advised. Now that remedy had been tried in the year 1848, by the Rev. Mr. Gorham, who was similarly refused by the Bishop of Exeter. Upon being refused, the Rev. Mr. Gorham carried his case into the Court of Arches, where he was cast at an expense of 1,225l. He afterwards removed it, by appeal, to the Judical Committee of the Privy Council, where he established his claim at the end of two years from the time of his presentation, at an expense of above 1,600l. making, with the addition of about 700l. for incidental expences not included in the Bill of costs, a total of 3,604l. He would put it to their Lordships, therefore, whether those courts afforded a mode of appeal suited to the circumstances of a poor clergyman, who would in general forfeit any preferment rather than incur such heavy liabilities. Indeed, he must say, that the Bishop of Exeter himself was not insensible to that view of the subject; for, in a subsequent letter, which he also desired that he (Earl Fortescue) should read, the right rev. Prelate said he quite concurred in that portion of the petition which referred to the large amount of costs incidental to the course of practice in these courts, and that he should be happy if any means could be devised by which they could be lessened. Mr. Layard stated that in May he was nominated by Sir J. Kennaway, a most devout and conscientious Member of the Church, to the perpetual curacy of Escot; that he was examined by the Bishop of Exeter, both orally and in writing upon certain points touching baptismal regeneration, and that he was finally rejected by the bishop. He further stated that he had been in orders for eleven years, that he had officiated in the diocesaes of Peterborough and of Lichfield, and had received most favourable testimonials from the bishops of those diocesses, and that he had been selected to fill the office of lecturer by the Elder Brethren of the Trinity-house at a time when the Duke of Wellington was Master of that corporation. When Mr. Layard was undergoing his examination he was offered the temporary charge of a parish by the Bishop of Peterborough; and while he was vicar of Mayfield he had been presented by his parishioners with a piece of plate as a token of their esteem and gratitude. He stated his willingness to make the usual declaration of assent to the Articles in the Book of Common Prayer, and to take the usual oaths of canonical obedience, and he stated that his case was by no means a singular one, but that many similar and almost identical instances of the rejection of ministers approved by other bishops had occurred of late in the diocess of Exeter, of which two or three were in the present year. The petitioner humbly submitted for the consideration of their Lordships "that clergymen, on simply renewing, ex animo, their declaration of conformity and their oath of canonical obedience as required by law, might be in all cases reasonably and safely admitted by the bishop to any benefice or cure of souls when they have already been engaged in the cure of souls in his diocess, without having incurred his censure, or when, having served in another diocess, they bring with them a bene exeat from the bishop thereof." Mr. Layard therefore prayed their Lordships to pass some such measure as above suggested, or to take other steps to prevent the recurrence of the grievance arising from a bishop thus ignoring the judicial decision of Her Majesty's Privy Council, and depriving both clergyman and patron of their respective legal rights in regard to the presentation to benefices. In the absence of the Bishop of Exeter, and of every other Member of the right rev. Bench, he (Earl Fortescue) would not venture to express any opinion upon the particular points at issue, but he would venture to say that a man commended and approved of by two bishops ought not to be deprived of his preferment at the arbitrary will of a third. It could not tend to the benefit of the Church, or the country, or to the respect which ought to be entertained for the episcopal Bench, that such differences should take place in the bosom of the Church, and among the heads of the establishment. His Lordship maintained that any clergyman presented to a living should be instituted on making the declaration of conformity and taking the oaths of canonical obedience, and not be liable to have his conscience harassed, his rights denied, and his professional prospects blasted by inquisitorial questions on disputed points of doctrine and faith. He concluded by moving that the petition be printed with the Votes.


objected to the Motion that the petition should be printed with the Votes, on the ground that such was not the custom of their Lordships' House. On some very rare occasions, petitions had been ordered to be printed in the Journals, but never with the Votes.

After some discussion, in which it was stated that the Standing Orders were altogether silent on the subject;

Petition read, and ordered to lie on the table.

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