§ This Bill was read a second time. On the motion (by Mr. Bathurst) that it be committed,
§ Sir W. Scott
wished to be allowed to say a few words in reply to some remarks which he understood had fallen yesterday from the hon. member for Bedford, on his (sir W. Scott's) absence from the House. The fact was, that he did not think it likely that any discussion could arise in that stage of the Bill. If he had foreseen the possibility of such an occurrence, he would have spared the hon. gentleman the performance of that part of his public duty. There were other insinuations which the hon. member for Bedford had chosen to throw out with respect to him; and one was, that he had taken the Bill out of the hands of a worthy and hon. gentleman. He confessed that he thought his character and conduct in that House would have saved him from such an imputation. The fact was, that the Bill introduced by that hon. person (for whom he had the highest respect, and whom he met on terms of great intimacy) had for its sole object to relieve the clergy from prosecutions under the Act of Henry 8. That hon. person expressed a disinclination 361 to render his measure a prospective one, and it was on that account he (sir W. Scott) had adopted it. He could assure the hon. member, that he had not contemplated the task without feelings of the greatest dismay, knowing the difficulties which attended it, and which arose, not only from the nature of the subject, but from the contending opinions of those who were interested in it. In proceeding with the undertaking, he was not disappointed in his expectation of strong opposition—an opposition so strong, as to induce him in many instances to adopt the views of others, although they were extremely repugnant to his own judgment. Without meaning to disclaim his own share of the measure, he could assure the hon. gentleman that the Bill did contain clauses, not less in hostility to his own opinions, than they could possibly be to those of the hon. gentleman himself. But the matter had been reduced to a question of discretion; and it had remained for him to determine only, whether to proceed with the Bill so altered, or to expose the clergy to the prosecutions pending against them. When he said this, however, he did entertain a hope that the inconveniencies which the clergy might experience from some parts of the Bill, might be balanced and remedied by the securities afforded them in the other parts. He understood that the hon. member had intimated that he (sir W. Scott) had chaunted the praises of the Bill. He was certain that neither the hon. member nor any other person had heard him do so, either in public or in private. The responsibility for the regulations which the Bill might contain when passed into a law rested, not with the individual by whom it was proposed, but with the legislature by whom it was ultimately established.
§ Mr. Whitbread
expressed his regret that the hon. and learned gentleman should have felt any uneasiness in consequence of what had fallen from him yesterday. If the hon. and learned gentleman had been absent yesterday on private business, or on an emergency, and intended to be present at all the other stages of the measure, then he also regretted that he had made the observations which he had made in the hon. and learned gentleman's absence. But if by those observations he had awakened the slumbering attention of the hon. and learned gentleman to the subject, he was persuaded that he had done a great public service. In saying that the hon. 362 and learned gentleman had taken the Bill out of the hands of the late member for Somersetshire, he by no means meant any improper imputations For the performance of that which a private man found impracticable, the hon. and learned gentleman was then, as now, selected. The hon. and learned gentleman admitted that he had always conceived the task a difficult one, and that he still found it so. He even allowed, that he had been compelled to introduce clauses into the Bill which he himself considered objectionable. Whether, however, any objectionable or ambiguous clauses were or were not the propositions of the hon. and learned gentleman, he was equally bound to come down and afford to the House the assistance of his great learning and abilities, in order that, to the evils which were dreaded, as adequate a remedy as possible should be provided. Another reason why he expected the presence of the hon. and learned gentleman in every stage of the measure was, that if the Bill should be carried into operation, and all the clergymen subjected to the penalties, and to be pursued by the informers as the Bill authorized, there had never existed a situation or circumstances in which the church establishment had been so much endangered by the certain degradation and ruin of a large portion of the inferior clergy. As on other occasions when the hon. and learned gentleman thought the church in danger, and he (Mr. W.) thought it was not, the hon. and learned gentleman did not fail to attend and to speak to the question; so on this occasion when the church was in real danger, and many of its members exposed to the horror of being dragged to a prison, he conceived the attendance and exertions of the hon. and learned gentleman peculiarly desirable. There was an open field for the exercise of the hon. and learned gentleman's talents and attainments, and he could not do a more eminent public service than by occupying it. Every day the grossest hardships among the clergy were to be met with, either in print, in manuscript, or orally. It appeared, if the statements of the clergymen were true, that Mr. Wright had entrapped some of them into a situation of difficulty for which there was no remedy; and had threatened, unless they compromised with him for a large sum of money, to take such measures as must ruin them for life. He denied that he had ever said, that the hon. and learned gentleman had 363 "chaunted" the praises of the Bill; and repeated his regret, that what he had yesterday felt it to be his duty to observe, had given the hon. and learned gentleman so much uneasiness.
§ The Bill was then ordered to be committed on Monday.