Page images

any sum of

himself says:


the account of


for burial ought not to be sold;

the clergy may not demand anything for burial.* “ In such a case, the parson may not demand anything for the ground or for the office.+ Hear also that great luminary, Lord Stowell: “ Ancient canons forbid the taking of money upon interment.”+

It is as amusing as it is provoking to read the comments of modern ecclesiastics and their lawyers on these laws. Burn

As to the incumbent for burying, the foundation of the fee was voluntary, and the obligation or necessity of paying arises from custom."$ Hear Lindwood also ; “ Albeit the clergy may not demand anything for burial, yet the laity may be compelled to observe pious and laudable customs."|| Shade of Bacon ! how can that which is in its origin and character voluntary, be rendered compulsory? All this is so clear, that he who reads may run. Sir, this is the undoubted law of the

The clergy have no authority whatever to exact one farthing either for the ground or for the office of reading the service, whether in the desk or at the tomb. Whatever parties may please to give them is mere bounty, a gratuity, a gift. Are not their scales of fees, then, scales of extortion?

Sir, the plunder practised in our parochial burying-grounds is not their least amiable aspect. The conduct of the clergy in relation to them is frequently characterised, not simply by uncharitableness, but barbarity. The contemptible ceremony of consecration is by their pride and selfishness converted into an instrument of savage torture. Many of them labour to impress 'mankind with the belief that the deposition of their bodies in

a consecrated bed,” is essential to the peace of their departed spirits; and it is notorious that multitudes of persons have been enslaved by the terrors arising from this absurdity. Dissent, with its chapel burial-grounds, and private Cemeteries, has, nevertheless, done much towards furnishing an antidote to the evil; and had things remained as they were we might have gone on for a few more generations, since our backs had become accustomed to the burden ; but if there is to be change, we must * Lind. p. 278. + 2 Hagg. p. 356.

Burn, Vol. I., p. 269. $ Ibid, Vol. I., p. 270. || Lind. p. 278.

in this, as in every thing else appertaining to our social system, endeavour to effect improvement.

So much for the old system. And do you think the public will submit to your new one? No! where there is no right to present payment, there can be no claim to future compensation; and, therefore, you may dismiss from your mind the hope of converting the thorns with which we are now molested, into spears!

November 17, 1842.





SIR,—Why are the Joint-stock Cemeteries consecrated ? Because otherwise the clergy would not bury in them, and thus damage would be sustained by the Companies. Why are such Cemeteries established by Act of Parliament? Because, without an Act the Bishop will not consecrate. Why will he not? Because, without an Act, a heavy tax on every body, interred, could not be secured to the clergy. The Companies themselves care not a rush for the rite of consecration. Why is one portion of the ground left unconsecrated ? For the accommodation of Nonconformists. Out of this circumstance has arisen the odious and novel spectacle of a separation, even in death, between Churchmen and Dissenters. In the new Cemetery, at Leeds, you are aware, there is no such distinction. The “ Necropolis" at Liverpool has never been consecrated, it has no Act of Parliament, and pays no fees to the clergy. One chapel only is erected, in which the respective funeral services of all communities are performed, and the dust of all classes mingles quietly together in the bosom of its parent earth. The Cemeteries of Glasgow, likewise, are the subjects of no Parliamentary Act, of no Episcopal consecration, of no clerical impost. The beautiful Cemetery of Abney Park is in the same condition. All these “ Cities of the Dead” resemble the cities of the living. Why, Sir, did not you make them your model, instead of those anomalous places around London? Are you prepared to carry out your principle ? Are we next to have Church and Dissenting carriages on our railways? Are we, then, to have Church and Dissenting compartments on the decks and in the cabins of our steamboats? Are we, afterwards, to have new villages, towns, and cities, laid out in separate allotments for Churchmen and Dissenters? Are the fires of bigotry, in the nineteenth century, to spread yet further, and to blaze still higher? Must monuments of discord, at length, be reared among our very sepulchres ? Does the dignity of manhood, or the honour of piety, demand that the signals of our division should be borne to the precincts of the eternal world? In that world itself is it thus that the spirits of men are to be classified ? No! Why, then, attempt to classify the bodies of mankind upon principles which the Judge of all flesh will not apply to their immortal spirits ? Let not purblind mortals invade the province of the Omniscient! Leave Him to perform unerringly the awful work of everlasting separation ! If

you will have new Parochial Cemeteries, let every inch be either consecrated or unconsecrated; let us have either, but not both. Let this most objectionable distinction end where it began, with the Bishop-taxed Joint-stock Cemeteries. In them, bad as it is, it is still much less intolerable than it would be in your new parochial grounds. In them, there are several redeeming circumstances, which will have no place in yours. The two divisions of ground, we believe, are, for the most part, equally eligible, and laid out with equal elegance; the chapels, too, are upon an equal footing as to respectability of appearance and accommodation ; both parties are treated alike with respect and attention; both stand on the same level before the Company, neither domineering over the other. How different from this would be the condition of Dissenters in your parochial Cemeteries, conducted solely by the clergy and churchwardens ! What scope they would furnish to these parties for insult, for injustice, and for oppression! The worst portions of the grounds would, of course, be too good for such creatures as Dissenters; and, as to the laying of them out, that might be deemed unne

cessary ; grounds not consecrated might properly be left in their rude state! With regard to chapels, any sort of erection might suffice for those who frequent the conventicle! In the management of the grounds, too, what pledge would there be for common civility, or exemption from high-church insolence, or something even worse, because more substantially mischievous ? Yet a little while, and, it may be, every pulpit in the land will be occupied by a Puseyite, and, consequently, every Cemetery be under Puseyite direction. With such a prospect, is it a marvel if Dissenters take alarm and deprecate your scheme? To the clergy and the wardens you give no rule of conduct but their own discretion, and the world have long since learned how to estimate that! You set them above all control. You leave us in all points utterly at their mercy ; and, whatever be our grievance, we have no redress, no authority to whom the oppressed may appeal. We have simply, in silence, to put on our fetters and obey our masters ! Is this the legislation which befits Englishmen in this age of the world ?

The pecuniary aspect of the question is of vast importance, and must not be overlooked. We have already exposed the iniquitous system of clerical taxation by which the Cemeteries are oppressed. But we have reserved a number of most important facts, which we will now adduce in this and the next Letter, in further proof of the grave allegation, that the clerical compensation provided by all the Cemetery Acts, is a barefaced extortion, having as little sanction in law as in justice. Before us lies the “ opinion" of one of the first ecclesiastical lawyers of his time, Dr. Addams, furnished by him expressly for the guidance of the Abney Park Cemetery Company, and which runs thus :

I am of opinion, that there is no law or custom by which the incumbent, or any other authority, of any one parish, can demand burial fees in respect of a corpse removed from such parish for interment in the churchyard of any other parish.

Sir, this is the law, and the inference is obvious. The compensation to the clergy exacted from all the suburban Cemeteries, is just so much robbery! They have no claim whatever to it. The London tallow-chandlers have quite as much right, and a vast deal more, to stand forth and demand a power to tax

the several Gas Companies by Acts of Parliament, compelling them to pay a given sum for every burner they shall light in street or hall, in cellar or garret, in shop or parlour, in church or theatre. Advantage was taken of the supposed necessities of the Cemetery Companies. They believed that consecration was essential to their success; and, therefore, they submitted to the unjust and cruel conditions set forth by the clergy, which are, nevertheless, a source of great injury to the Companies, as well as to the public at large. We have already reprobated the meanness of the Companies in submitting to the extortion, and exposed their baseness in concealing the fact. Passing by these points, therefore, we now proceed to examine and illustrate the working of the system.

Let us take an example from Liverpool. In the Necropolis already mentioned, which is without an Act of Parliament, without consecration, and consequently not burdened with fees to the clergy, during the space of seventeen years, upwards of

1,200 bodies, on an average, have been annually interred ; and · the returns to the shareholders have generally averaged 12} per cent. interest on the capital invested: in some years they have reached even to 20 per cent. The shares, which were originally 101. each, have been repeatedly sold at a premium of 1001. That Cemetery, however, not being to the taste of the clergy, about five years afterwards, the Quarry Cemetery of Liverpool was formed. This Cemetery was wholly consecrated; so that the Established Clergy alone can officiate in it; and, as a matter of course, it pays enormous fees to them; fees absorbing so large a portion of the profits upon interments, that " no return has ever been made to the shareholders; and there is no appearance of pecuniary advantage for the future. The want of success is wholly and solely attributable to the incumbrances consequent upon consecration." *

The Company do business purely for the benefit of the clergy. The Liverpool example deserves to be followed. Of two cemeteries, one is all consecrated, and the other wholly unconsecrated. In that town, there is no collusion, as in the case of the London Cemeteries, in order to conceal the extortions of the clergy, and to make the uncon

* Cemetery Interment, p. 186.

« PreviousContinue »