Page images

racters are truly and peculiarly English; according to the standard of those times in which national characters were most distinguishable. Not exempt, certainly, from errors and defects, they yet seem to us to hold out a lofty example of substantial dignity and virtué ; and to possess most of those talents and principles by which public life is made honourable, and privacy delightful, Bigotry must at all times debase, and civil dissension embitter our existence; but, in the ordinary course of events, we may safely venture to assert, that a nation which produces many such wives and mothers as Mrs Lucy Hutchinson, must be both great and happy.

For the Reverend Julius Hutchinson, the editor of these Memoirs, it is easy to see that he is considerably perplexed and distracted, between a natural desire to extol these illustrious ancestors, and a fear of being himself mistaken for a republican. So he gives us alternate notes in laud of the English levellers, and in vituperation of the atheists and jacobins of France. From all this, our charity leads us to infer, that the said Reverend Julius Hutchinson has not yet obtained that preferment in the church which it would be convenient for him to possess; and that, when he is promoted according to his merits, he will speak more uniformly, in a manner becoming his descent. In the mean time, we are very much obliged to him for this book, and for the pains he has taken to satisfy us of its authenticity, and of the accuracy of the publication. We do not object to the old spelling, which occasions no perplexity ; but when the work comes to another edition, we would recommend it to him to add a few dates on the margin, to break his pages into more paragraphs, and to revise his punctuation. He would make the book infinitely more saleable, too, if, without making the slightest variation in what is retained, he would omit about 200 pages of the siege of Nottingham, and other parish business ; especially as the whole is now put beyond the reach of loss or corruption by the present full publication.

ART. II. A Letter to the Right Honourable Spencer Perceval, on

Subject connected with his Bill, now under Discussion in Parliament, for improving the Situation of Stipendiary Curates. 8vo. Hatchard, London. 1808.

T'he poverty of curates has long been a favourite theme with

novellists, sentimental tourists, and elegiac poets. But, notwithstanding the known accuracy of this class of philosophers, we cannot help suspecting that there is a good deal of



not affond above - 1801. for each living. Unless Mr Perceval, therefore, will raise an additional million or two for the church, there must be poor curates ;-and poor rectors also : and, unless he is to reduce the Episcopal hierarchy to the republican equality of our Presbyterian model, he must submit to very considerable inequalities in the distribution of this inadequate provision.

Instead of applying any of these remedies however,--instead of proposing to increase the income of the church, or to raise a fund for its lowest servants, by a general assessment upon those who are more opulent, instead of even trying indirectly to raise the pay of curates, by raising their qualification in respect of regular edus cation, Mr Perceval has been able, after long and profound study, to find no better cure for the endemic poverty of curates, than to ordain all rectors of a certain income to pay them one fifth part of their emoluments, and to vest certain alarming powers in the Bishops, for the purpose of controuling their appointment. Now, this scheme, it appears to us, has all the faults which it is possible for such a scheme to have. It is unjust and partial in its principles it is evidently altogether and utterly inefficient for the correction of the evil in question,-and it introduces other evils infinitely greate ér than that which it vainly proposes to abolish. - To this project, however, for increasing the salary of curates, Mr Perceval has been so long and so obstinately partial, that he returned to the charge in the last session of Parliament, for the third time, and experienced, in spite of his present high situation, the same defeat which had baffled him in his previous at. tempts.

Though the subject is gone by once more for the present, we cannot abstain from bestowing a little gentle violence to aid its merited descent into the gulph of oblivion, and to extinguish, if possible, that resurgent principle which has so often disturbed the serious business of the country, and averted the attention of the public from the great scenes that are acting in the world-to search for some golden medium between the selfishness of the sacred principal, and the rapacity of the sacred deputy. If church property is to be preserved, that precedent is not without danger which disposes at once of a fifth of all the valuable livings in England. We do not advance this as an argument of any great importance against the bill, but only as an additional reason why its utility should be placed in the clearest point of view, before it can attain the assent of wellwishers to the English establishment.

Our first and greatest objection to such a measure, is the increase of power which it gives to the Bench of Bishops,--an evil which may produce the most serious effects, by placing the whole body of the clergy under the absolute controut of men who are



bustle of a new, and the laxity of an aged bishop, we cannot but think that a diocese would be much more steadily administered, under this system, than by the present means.

Examine the constitutional effects of the power now granted to the bench: What hinders a bishop from becoming, in the hands of the court, a very important agent in all county elections? what clergyman would dare to refuse him his vote? But it will be said that no bishop will ever condescend to such sort of intrigucs :-a most miserable answer to a most serious objection. The temptation is. admitted, the absence of all restraint; the dangerous consequences are equally admitted ; and the only preservative is the personal character of the individual. If this style of reasoning were general, what would become of law, constitution, and every, wholesome restraint which we have been accumulating for so. many centuries? We have no intention to speak disrespectfully of constituted authorities ; but when men can abuse power with impunity, and recommend themselves to their superiors by abusing it, it is but common sense to suppose that power will be abused: if it is, the country will hereafter be convulsed to its very entrails, in tearing away that power from the prelacy which has been so improvidently conferred upon then. " It is useless to talk of the power they antiently possessed. They have never possessed it since England has been what it now is. Since we have enjoyed practically a free constitution, the bishops have, in point of fact, possessed little or no power over their clergy.

It must be remembered, however, that we are speaking only of probabilities : The fact may turn out to be quite the reverse : The power yested in the Bench may be exercised for spiritual pura poses only, and with the greatest moderation. We shall be extremely happy to find that this is the case ; and it will reflect great honour upon those who have corrected the improvidence of the legislature by their own sense of propriety.

It is contended by the friends of this law, that the respectability of the clergy depends in some measure on their wealth ; and that, as the rich bishop reflects a sort of worldly consequence upon the poor bishop, and the rich rector upon the poor rector;-so, a rich class of curates could not fail to confer a greater degree of importance upon that class of men in general. This is all very well, if you intend to raise up some new fund in order to enrich curates : But you say that the riches of some constitute the dignity of the whole ; and then you immediately take away from the rector, the superfluous wealth which, according to your own method of reasoning, is to decorate and dignify the order of men to whom he belongs ! The bishops constitute the first class in


balergy ust be rem e The

« PreviousContinue »