The Duke of Cumberland
wished to ask the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, whether he intended to press this Session, his two Bills of Pluralities and Non-Residence. He particularly asked the question, as he thought it proper that the Bills should be discussed before the Bishops went out of town, as they must do shortly. The noble and learned Lord had stated, on a former occasion, that he would intro- 837 duce a clause into the Non-Residence Bill; and he wished to ask, when it would be ready to be laid before the House.
The Lord Chancellor
said, that it was quite true he had alluded to the clause mentioned by the illustrious Duke; and with respect to the question when it would be ready to be laid before the House, he begged to observe, that it was a clause of considerable importance, and, therefore, required to be drawn with the greatest care; and the learned persons who had employed themselves upon it had found some difficulty in framing the clause to meet all circumstances. That difficulty, he believed, was now overcome, and on Monday next he should be able to lay the clause before the House. There was a question connected with the clause relating to non-residence which he considered of importance, and it was as to the way in which days of non-residence should be counted. By the present law, a clergyman was permitted to have ninety days of non-residence; and the practice now was, to put any days of non-residence, in any one week or month, to any other of such days in another week or month, and to count them all together, as if they were continuous days of non-residence. He bad always thought this a hardship on the clergyman, strongly as he was in favour of a non-residence law. He knew the consequence of this to be, in one parish with which he was acquainted, that about half-a-dozen farmers kept each of them a log-book of the days of the non-residence with as much exactness as any sailor ever kept a log-book of the days of his voyage, and the parson could not get out of his parsonage on any account, either to be present as a witness at the Assizes, or for his own pleasure, or to visit a small property he had in the neighbourhood, without the days being carefully noted down and summed up at the end of the year, in order to see whether he had exceeded the ninety days. He should like to see this remedied, and he should endeavour to introduce a clause for that purpose. As to the question whether he meant to proceed with the Bill, the illustrious Duke would recollect that a noble Earl, who was a great authority in these matters, had pressed him to give time for consideration. He thought he should yield to that request, more especially as he believed that it would make very little difference whether the Bill was passed late in the present, or early in the ensuing Session. He was the more inclined to put 838 off the matter, as he had had much correspondence with patrons and clergymen on the subject of pluralities, and the protection of existing interests. He did not think that he should proceed further than getting the Bill printed with the Amendments.
§ Lord Wynford
said, that the measure never would give satisfaction. Some would think it went too far—others not far enough; and under these circumstances he should oppose every clause of the Bill, whenever it was introduced for their Lordships' adoption.
§ The Duke of Richmond
said, that he was an enemy to non-residence, and he thought it might be prevented, if there was a means of enforcing a certain number of preachings every Sunday, for instance, two in every rural district, and three preachings each day in other places.
The Archbishop of Canterbury
had always, as much as he was able, endeavoured to prevent the practice of non-residence becoming an abuse. But, as to any further legislative measure, he feared that it would be found totally unproductive of benefit. The subject had been considered by the late Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York, and himself, and though they employed themselves in considering it for three years, they had not been able to find out any unobjectionable remedy for non-residence. As to the remedy proposed by the noble and learned Lord against what he deemed a hardship in the present mode of counting the days of non-residence, he thought the amendment of the law in that respect unnecessary, and believed that it would open a door to great abuse if the clergyman was allowed on this or that occasion to be absent from his living without having his absence counted as a day of non-residence. He thought that all the days ought to be counted together. This was a point in the noble and learned Lord's Bill to which he particularly objected, and the same objection existed to all measures framed in the same way—namely, that it left the remedy for non-residence in the hands of the informer, whereas it ought to be placed in no such hands, but in those of the diocesan. He felt called upon to direct the attention of their Lordships to these matters, all of which he considered of great importance.
The Lord Chancellor
said, that when he spoke before, he had no intention of entering this moment, this inconvenient moment, into a debate on this subject, upon Bills 839 not then before the House; but he was attempted to be dragged into it by the noble and learned Lord, and by the most reverend Prelate, who, he must say—and he said it with the greatest and most sincere deference to the most reverend Prelate—had, without the slightest pretence of necessity or convenience, gone into the complicated question of non-residence. To sit quite still under such provocation, would almost imply the possession of more patience than usually fell to the lot of men, and even an indifference to the subject. He felt no such indifference; but he would not suffer him-self to be tempted into the discussion at this moment. As to the clause to allow of certain excuses for absence, on which the most reverend Prelate had expressed an opinion, he was bound to say, that that opinion made him hesitate. The most reverend Prelate thought the Amendment unnecessary. God forbid that he (the Lord Chancellor) should be more for non-residence than the most reverend Prelate. He should follow that opinion, and not produce the clause, but he wished that the clergy should see that it was not he but the most reverend Prelate who kept his amended clause out of the Bill. Then as to the mode of counting the days of non-residence, the most reverend Prelate said that it would open a door to great abuse—he had thought otherwise; but now better instructed on the subject, it was probable that he should not trouble their Lordships with that provision in the Bill—but instead of allowing a certain specified time in the year for non-residence, should permit the present mode to continue as it was.
§ Subject dropped.