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acknowledged hazards of innovation contrived to accomplish their separa. will justify. If a reasonable plan of tion. The clergy, always active and reform, in any of the departments of ambitious, continued their encroachstate, is proposed by their opponents, ments on the civil power, and, even in they will lend their whole influence the vigorous reign of Henry the Seto check, for the present, the triumph cond, had acquired such an ascendant, which would arise to their enemies that the pope ventured to deprive that from the success of their plans; and able prince of his right of nominating thus it happens, that many beneficial to vacant benefices. Such advantameasures are unwisely postponed ; that ges indeed did the clergy obtain over some are abandoned altogether, and Henry, that, before he could make that the interests of the country are his peace with the church, he was sacrificed amid the struggles of faction. forced to sign certain articles; by It is impossible to acquit either par one of which it was conceded, that a ty of blame; but perhaps those who layman, breaking the peace with an give the provocation--who are the ecclesiastic, should be tried by the first to betray narrow views, and to bishop ; and by another, that no ecexhibit the unnatural union of gene- clesiastic should be amenable to the rous plans with selfish principles, are temporal powers. Their influence ineven more culpable than their oppo- creased in succeeding reigns; and in nents, who yield to feelings of resent that of John, rose to such a pitch, ment that even the wisest and best that the king himself was forced to of men cannot always restrains. It is surrender his crown into the hands of painful, however, to reflect, that from a priest, and accept it as a grant such causes measures of great public from the ecclesiastical power. The utility may often miscarry; and it is clergy had not, however, been allownot less honourable to the parties more ed to make these encroachments withimmediately concerned, than it is con out complaint or resistance on the soling to all who really love their part of the legislature and the people. country, when instances are found, in In the reigns of Edwards First and which truth and sense have triumphed Third, and Richard Second, seveover every obstacle, and men of all ral statutes were passed, for abridgparties have united in a salutary im. ing their power; but they still contiprovement on the laws of their country. nued to gain strength, until, in the
An example of this kind was af. reign of Henry the Seventh, in conforded during the present session of sequence of a dispute betwixt parliaparliament, in the measure which was ment and the ecclesiastical jurisdicadopted for improving the inferior tions, an act was passed to make the ecclesiastical courts of England. The clergy responsible to the civil courts. history of the jurisdiction of these This innovation was violently resisted courts is very curious, and serves by some eminent individuals of their to explain the aromalies which till order : But Henry VIII. in conlately existed in their practice. Be- sequence of transactions which are fore the Norman conquest, the eccle- well known, having taken up a deep siastical and temporal powers were grudge against the clergy, united his united; but William the First, either influence to that of the parliament, and from a wish to imitate the institutions the temporal courts at last prevailed. of his own country, or to get rid, in A commission was appointed about certain cases, of the trial by jury, this time to enquire into the abuses
which had crept into the ecclesiastical severity ; but the punishment itself courts ; but it does not appear that its was extremely objectionable as an proceedings were attended with any abuse of a religious ceremony; and practical advantages. A similar fate there could be no difficulty in finding attended commissions which were ap a substitute for it, more efficacious pointed in several succeeding reigns; and less oppressive. It was declared, and nothing was effected towards im- in the House of Commons, by one of proving the constitution of these the greatest lawyers of this or any courts until the acts 26th Geo. II. other age or country, who himself and 27th Geo. III. were passed. Their presides in the highest of the English constitutional canons were still nomi. ecclesiastical courts, to be the general nally the same as they had been du. wish of all who were connected with ring the reign of Henry the Eighth ; them, to have this barbarous and abalthough it would be absurd to deny surd custom abolished. that the spirit of their proceedings had The attention of Lord Folkestone been softened by the improvements of was attracted to this subject, by the modern times, and that they had par case of Mary Ann Dix, a poor woticipated to a large extent in the pro. man, who had committed some offence gress of refinement and civilization. falling under the jurisdiction of one Many of the persons who now preside of the inferior
ecclesiastical courts, for in them are men of the very highest which she had been excommunicated talents, and the most spotless charac- and imprisoned. For this unfortunate ter; but still there existed some absur woman his lordship presented a petidities in the constitution of the eccle- tion to the House of Commons, in siastical courts, which it was important which the circumstances of her case to correct or remove.
were very fully stated; but unfortuThe punishment of excommunica- nately, his lordship, in the course of tion, the only one which can be a the discussion, did not confine himself warded by the ecclesiastical courts, to those points in the practice of the and which, by the 5th of Queen Eli- courts which were really deserving of zabeth, may be followed up by impri- censure, but entered on a wide field of sonment, affords the most striking in- groundless accusation. He proposed stance of the faults in their constitu. that a committee should be appointed tion. The consequences of a sentence to institute an enquiry far more extenof excommunication, according to the sive and embarrassing than the occastrict principles of the ecclesiastical sion demanded. He complained not law, are extremely serious : The offen- only of the punishment of excommuder is cut off from all civil rights; he nication, but of the heavy costs which is looked on as a heathen and pub- were incurred in the ecclesiastical lican; he can succeed to no inherit- courts—a complaint which might, ance, and can bring no action ; he with as much justice, have been urged cannot be a juror or witness in a court against any other court in the kingof law; and if he die, he is not en- dom, and the statement of which could titled to Christian burial. This punish- hardly be attended with any beneficial ment, although generally awarded in results, thus hastily brought forward, cases of defamation, was however in- without notice or preparation. He curred only by the contumacy of the spoke, in general terms, of enormous offender, who, by submitting to a slight abuses which existed in the practice of penance, might have avoided such these courts, although he was able, ous
of the multitude of causes which come clesiastical courts, on the maxim, that
opinions may be entertained as to the the year 1811, been appointed to encauses of the disappearance of the quire into the proofs of the depreciaprecious metals, few will now be dis- tion, and to report their opinion as to posed to doubt, that, in the actual the most suitable means of relief. circumstances of the country, this de. They accomplished the first object cisive measure had become indispensa- of their labours, but failed entirely ble. From the moment, however, that in the second and most important. it was adopted, the footing on which In the state of the world at, that the currency
of the country hitherto eventful period, when all Europe was stood was entirely changed ; and as combined against England—when a bank-notes were no longer, as former. war was declared upon her commerce, ly, convertible into gold, their value and the sources of her prosperity could not be regulated by the value were seriously threatened when it of the precious metals, nor could the was doubtful whether she would, for amount of issues issued by the bank many years, have that balance of be regulated precisely by the wants trade in her favour, by which alone of the circulation. The immediate the precious metals could be restoconvertibility of the notes into gold, red, and when it seemed uncertain was that circumstance by which alone whether she should be able longer a real equality of valué could, with to carry on foreign commerce at all, certainty, be maintained, and the power it would have been no less unjust
than formerly possessed by the holders of absurd, to have compelled the Bank notes to demand payment of them in of England to resume its payments cash, was the only effectual check by in cash. By the policy which go. which the directors of the Bank of vernment found it necessary pursue, England could be apprised of the the bank had, in the first instance, over-issue and consequent deprecia. been deprived of the means of paying tion of their notes. It was quite in cash, and it was both a wise and an possible, therefore, and not by any equitable measure, in such circummeans improbable, that after the re stances, to relieve it for a time of this striction was imposed, an over-issue obligation. A steady perseverance in and consequent depreciation might oc the same system of policy still deprived cur; and when it was proved by a re the bank of all chance of obtaining the ference to the market price of bul means by which alone cash payments lion, and the state of the foreign ex. could be resumed ; and the legislature, changes, that a note of the Bank of therefore, could not, without the grossEngland could no longer purchase est injustice, have acceded to the prothe same amount of coin which it no- posal of the committee of 1811, to take minally represented, the evidence of off the restriction. But if it was nethis deficiency was complete. The cessary, in the circumstances in which evils arising out of this state of things the country was placed, to protect were not less certain than the fact of the bank against demands which it the entire revolution which had been was now no longer in a condition to effected in the system of the cur answer, another duty, not less importrency; but, as often happens in cases ant, was incumbent on the legislaof this kind, it was much easier to ture-that of protecting the people enlarge upon the grievance than to against claims for payment in cash, point out the remedy. A committee with which the bank could no longer of the House of Commons had, in supply the holders of its notes. So
long as bank-notes were to form the when the measure was brought for. only medium of circulation which the ward; no doubt could have been enpeople could possess, it became indis- tertained, however, by the framers of pensable that they should have the the law, that the circumstances of Iresanction of the legislature for applying Jand, equally with those of the sister these notes to the great use for which kingdom, called for this remedy. money is destined the satisfaction of That although, in some districts of the demands made upon them by their Ireland, a distinction was made by creditors. For this purpose, a tempo- persons entering into contracts berary act had been passed in the course twixt payments in gold and payments of the last year, for making bank. in bank-notes, yet such a practice was notes in certain cases a legal tender ; not general ; but if any reason, such and it was now proposed by Mr Per as this, were urged against extending ceval, that the above act, with certain the measure to Ireland, there would amendments, should be continued, and be the same ground for objecting to it that its provisions should be extended in the case of England, where it was to Ireland.
notorious that guineas were sold for a In support of this measure, it was much larger sum than their nominal said that the bill offered to parlia- value.--That even in Ireland, the disment was merely an extension of the tinction alluded to had scarcely obtainsystem which had received the sanc
ed for the last seven or eight years, tion of the legislature last year—that except in the case of rents ; and, with no alteration was intended, except that reference to this particular case, par. payments of bank-notes, whether in or liament would be called
should out of court, should be declared legal the act pass, to devise some remedy.payments, to the effect of staying an That by the measures which had al. arrest; and that the provisions of the ready been sanctioned in parliament, statute should be extended to Ireland: tenants were placed in a very embarThat, since the passing of the former rassing situation ; for although, by act, only three cases had occurred in their contracts, they had bound them. the courts of justice, in which the le- selves to make their payments in gold, gality of the tender was disputed ; they could never have had it in view one of these was the case of Lord that they might be under the necessiKing, who had evidently brought the ty of purchasing gold at a premium of action for the purpose of trying the 25 per cent, which was its price at this general question ; that as the provi- time. That there could be no reasions of the former bill were not such soning from an enlarged experience as as to have prevented any person from to the present money system of Engdisputing the point, if he had not land ; that no parallel case had ever been disposed to acquiesce in the ar- existed in the history of the world ; rangements suggested by the legisla. and so far as a short and limited ex. ture, the circumstance of so slender perience, from the year 1797 downa resistance on the part of the peo. wards, could be the groundwork of ple, shewed that they were in general any sound argument, an inference was disposed to concur in the measures fairly deducible in favour of that sys. which government had found it neces tem which had been so strongly resary to adopt.-That the only rea- probated by some members of opposon for not extending the provisions sition. That there was no reason to of the former act to Ireland was, fear an inundation of bank-notes, from that many Irish members were absent the imprudence or avarice of the die
VOL. V. PART I.