HL Deb 18 June 1858 vol 151 cc6-9

presented a petition from the vestry of St. Giles, under their corporate seal, for inquiry into the circumstances connected with the sequestration of the vicarage of Camberwell, and for Amendment of the Law of Sequestration. The petitioners, the members of the vestry of Camberwell, represented that the number of souls in that parish was 60,000, and that the income of the vicar was £2,309 per annum. The vicar had been compelled to leave the parish in consequence of being greatly in debt, owing at the time he left about £30,000, secured by sequestration, and the balance now due being £20,000. Under these circumstances, the ministerial duty, for which £2,300 a year was paid by the parish, was performed by two curates appointed by the Bishop, who had no power under the existing Act of Parliament to give a larger salary than £200 a year between them. The petitioners complained, and most justly, of this state of things, and desired an inquiry to be made into the condition of the parish, and prayed that their Lordships would originate some law with regard to sequestration. He regretted that none of the members of the right rev. Bench were present, but he trusted that the case would become known to them by some means or other, and that they would suggest a remedy for such a state of things. No one could deny that the law as it stood required some alteration. There were three parties concerned in a sequestration—the minister himself, the parishioners, and the creditors of the clergyman. The parishioners had a right to complain if, while they were paying a large sum for the services of the church, those services were performed by one or two curates in the receipt of £200 a year, the surplus being paid over to the creditors of the incumbent. By law, a clergyman could not charge his living with any debts that he might incur. If a judgment were obtained against him, he could not charge his living with the payment of the debt; and yet by the operation of the law, and by the judgment creditor praying a sequestration by the Ecclesiastical Court, a sequestrator was appointed who took possession of the temporalities of the living, provided curates at not more than £200 a year, and allotted the remainder of the clergyman's income to the payment of the debt; so that when an incumbent was embarrassed he applied to the money dealers, who were perfectly aware of the nature of the security they could obtain. The moment things went wrong these money dealers took out a sequestration and seized the whole of the temporalities, to the exclusion of the general creditors. The tradesmen of the parish, for example, who might imprudently have trusted the clergyman were cut out by the sequestration. He held that a clergyman was bound to the spot where his duties were to be performed; and, although an excuse might be made for improvidence, he ought never to be excused for wilfully running into debt, and being thereby prevented from executing the sacred duties of his office. Instead of allowing a clergyman to obtain a license to reside from his parish or to reside as an outlaw abroad for the purpose of avoiding his creditors, he ought to be bound to remain at his post, and execute his duties; and if he could not do this, from having wilfully and recklessly run into debt, he would declare the living void and strip his gown from him, as being incapable of performing his duties. Without taking from the creditors all the security they now possessed, he certainly would not suffer a sequestration to take place which enabled one great creditor to take the whole surplus income of the living. He would have one person appointed by the Ecclesiastical Court to receive the whole income of the living. The incumbent should receive a certain allowance, fixed by the Bishop, but should be compelled to reside and perform the duties while he was endeavouring to become a better man. He would then let all the tradesmen and other creditors share equally in the payment of the debts. The object he should have in view would be to prevent clergymen from becoming improvident and incapable of performing their duties to their parish; and on the other hand, it would render persons cautious how they allowed him to get into their debt. Creditors, again, who wished to obtain a great interest for their money would not be able to avail themselves of the necessities and improvidence of clergymen. He trusted that the petition would receive the consideration of the Government and of the heads of the Church, and that some remedy would be devised from the evils to which he had called their attention.


, in common with his noble and learned Friend, regretted that none of the right rev. Prelates had been present to hear the statement he had just made. He thought the House ought to be grateful to his noble and learned Friend for calling their attention to so important a subject. He himself (Viscount Dungannon) knew many instances in which the incumbents of populous parishes had been living abroad for many years, while their livings were under sequestration, and the duty of the living had been discharged by one or more curates on meagre salaries. This was a most lamentable state of things. The proposed scheme of the noble and learned Lord was one of a most important character. He (Viscount Dungannon) had seen evils result from the present state of the law in more parishes than one, and trusted that the subject would have the serious attention of the Legislature, and he thought that no one would be better able to give the required attention to the subject than the master mind of the noble and learned Lord who had introduced the topic.


hoped that the noble and learned Lord who had introduced the subject would take the matter into his serious consideration; for it was well-known that unless some individual took it up earnestly, it would never be taken up in a general way. The evil had gone on for a great length of time; every one was sensible of it, and no attempt at any remedy was proposed. The evil in a great degree arose from the fact that people did not consider sufficiently the trust connected with their living. They treated it too much as property, and in a great many other matters connected with the livings and preferments of the Church that feeling was allowed to prevail. A Bill had been introduced for depriving Members of either House of Parliament of their seats under certain circumstances, and great benefit would be done to the Church if the same system were adopted in respect to livings made vacant under certain proceedings. There was a trust connected with Church livings as well as seats in Parliament; and it was necessary that the example of the clergyman should be beneficial to his parishioners rather than the contrary, and if he got into difficulties and embarrassments it was desirable that he and his living should be separated. He, however, did hope that while provision was made for the due performance of spiritual duties in the Church, the question of property would be no less considered in connection with Church preferments and the due performance of ecclesiastical duties.

Petition to lie on the Table.

House adjourned at half past Seven o'clock to Monday next, Eleven o'clock.