Page images


edly a principal part of our complaint, that Dissenters have a very large amount of capital vested in burial-grounds, which it is, there is reason to believe, the aim and object of Mr. Mackinnon's Bill to annihilate. Granting, then, for the present, that things are as they are represented by Walker and Whitaker, does he not see the difficulty which is thus presented to an upright legislator? Is he prepared to meet that difficulty, by simply pronouncing, in every case, that the “chapel, buryingground, and all is a speculation ?" Is he thus prepared to treat the memorial presented to his Committee by the Society of Friends? That valuable body of citizens “ desire to be excepted in any recommendation which the Committee on the

interment of bodies,' may think necessary." Would it be a meet reply to this modest request to say, “Your burial-grounds in Finsbury, Whitechapel, Ratcliff, Bermondsey, and StokeNewington, are all a speculation?” Is the time come, when such words are to emanate from the lips of a British Senator ? What do Honourable Members mean by speculation? They apply the term in a sense wholly new; and, would they condescend to exercise their thoughts a little about the definition of Dissenters' burying-grounds, it might help somewhat to enlighten them relative to the merits of the proposed Bill. Neither Friends, nor Dissenters of any other name, are surprised that conscientious Churchmen should desire to lay their bones under or around the walls within which they habitually worship; but they think it hard, when Dissenters, make provision for the indulgence of so natural and affecting a desire, to be told, it is “all a speculation !"

September 10, 1842.



Our last Letter demonstrated that the metropolitan and suburban burial-grounds of Dissenters, and the remoter Cemeteries, were telling with fatal effect upon the parochial interments. We

also showed that, in the judgment of Mr. Mackinnon and his supporters, the main prop of the Dissenting interest in the metropolis consists in the fees derived from burial-grounds. The object of the Bill is, entirely to annihilate this, and to introduce another order of things. Should the Bill, in its present shape, pass into a law, it will, in one day, close every place of sepulture, not only within the metropolis, but also from its extremities, that is, from the termination of the paving and the lighting, to a distance of two miles beyond. This, its projectors hope, will smite Dissent like a thunderbolt. The effect of the Bill in this direction is, in the eyes of Mr. Mackinnon, one of its chief merits. Hence his obvious and reprehensible anxiety to draw from his witnesses the most exaggerated statements of the revenues of Dissent. Hence, too, his insidious attempt to effect, through Surgeon Walker, the restoration of the preposterous and calumnious evidence of a former witness, who had completely broken down. The reason of this conduct is obvious; the more extravagant the misrepresentation upon this point, the more is the value of Mr. Mackinnon's services in behalf of the Church and her clergy magnified. But while his Bill would close the whole of the Dissenting burial-grounds, it would also operate most adversely upon the Cemeteries which have been formed by voluntary associations. It would, we hesitate not to say, render them comparatively valueless. Before twelve months elapsed, shares in them would fall 25 per cent.; before another year, 25 per cent. more; and so the depreciation would go on, till the speculation ended in ruin. All these voluntary Cemeteries would be viewed and represented by the clergy as the heathenish creations of mere mercantile speculation. As receptacles for the dead, formed by laymen, governed by laymen, and—notwithstanding the enormous taxation of interments for the benefit of the clergy-productive to laymen, and consequently apart from the Church, and beyond her control, they would be denounced in true Catholic style, by bell, book, and candle! From the very outset, the great majority of the dead of the several parishes would be interred in the new parochial Cemeteries, and every year would reduce the minority, till it were annihilated. A machinery would be easily prepared, and indefatigably worked, for the accomplishment of this object; and thus the Church would once more establish her ghostly empire over the entire territory of the tomb; and thus, too, her cormorant clergy would go on from sire to son, fattening on the dead, after having fleeced the living !

Dissenters of England! Be not deceived: rest assured, these are the grand objects contemplated by this Bill. To accomplish them, Mr. Mackinnon has undertaken this discreditable enterprise, and has made up his mind, without a sigh, to lacerate the tenderest feelings, to disturb the vested rights, to sacrifice the valuable property, and to invade the religious freedom, of a large portion of her Majesty's best subjects. Mr. Mackinnon and his priestly prompters are so intent upon this end, that they are apparently not very scrupulous about the character of their means. Still, the forms of justice must be observed; there must be an attempt at proving the nuisance as a ground of the necessity of the measure ; but the semblance of proof must not be confounded with the reality. Mr. Mackinnon has made out his real, but not his ostensible case. The honourable gentleman has yet to learn that much talk is not necessarily much evidence. He and his Committee are either incapable of dealing with evidence, or their feelings have warped their judgments. Nor is this either all, or the worst : their Report does not fairly represent the evidence which was before them. Their conclusion is, in fact, quite contrary to the bulk of the only credible testimony. The great preponderance of the real evidence is on the other side. To men of legal habits, or with the merest smattering of legal knowledge, the evidence itself would be a subject of laughter, and the Report an object of scorn. But we appeal to you simply as men of common sense; and shall now set before you an exhibition which will not fail at once to prove this serious allegation, and also enlighten you on the true end and pernicious character of Mr. Mackinnon's Bill.

The first, and, in all points, by far the most important class of witnesses, were the clergy, of whom no fewer than twelve appeared before the Committee. Of these gentlemen, all who spoke to the point, with but one insignificant exception, so far from supporting, overturn Mr. Mackinnon's first great principle, viz., that “interment within the precincts of large towns or populous places is injurious to the health of the community.”


1. The Rev. J. C. Abdy, of St. John's, Southwark, says, “My opinion decidedly is, that funerals, in certain churchyards in the metropolis, should not be, without qualification, prohibited. I can imagine very serious evils to arise, if there be any law which shall, without certain restrictions and qualifications, prohibit funerals in certain churchyards; and I do sincerely hope and trust such a stringent law may not pass. In my own parish we have a very large spacious churchyard, and we have no inconvenience arising from the interment of the dead: we have a number of vaults; there are many of them with scarcely more than one or two tenants, and they may hold from ten to twenty more."-Does this witness prove the nuisance?

2. The Rev, JAMES ENDELL TYLER, Rector of St. Giles'sin-the-Fields, a witness of the first class, says: “Having been there sixteen years, I never have heard of a complaint from the neighbours. We have three schools, the windows of which open into the churchyard ; and we all think it a great advantage to have that free circulation of air. We have never, in

any instance, found any effluvia from the churchyard. On the contrary, it is a decidedly healthy spot.”Does this witness prove the nuisance ?

3. The Rev. John HoughtON, Rector of St. George's, Southwark, with reference to the vaults under his church, says, “I never perceived any unpleasant effluvia to arise from what had been interred there ; I have one of my own children buried there; had there been any thing of the kind, I certainly should not have done that. There is not the least smell." - Does this witness prove the nuisance ?

4. The Rev. Dr. Russell, Rector of Bishopsgate, is one of those whose evidence is discreditably perverted in Mr. Mackinnon's Report. In the first page of the Report are these words : “ Your Committee refer to the following extracts, as to the evil of the practice :

“ The Rev. J. Russell, D.D. (Q. 2,497): It is sickening; it is horrible.'”

Now, what are the facts ? First, that, as to the effect of city sepulture, his experience is the contrary; and, secondly, that the words quoted refer to a wholly different subject-- quarrels

about wages among the grave-diggers! His words are these :“Since I have been at Bishopsgate, I am not aware that the ground has been attended with any real inconvenience to the inhabitants.” “I am not aware that the vaults under the church in Bishopsgate are such as to create any inconvenience ; but certainly I cannot speak so favourably of the Great Vault, as they call it.” On the main point, this is all that the Rector states.Does this witness prove the nuisance ?

On the next point he says: “The grave-diggers will not fill in the grave, unless they get 4d. paid. (A sort of extra perquisite.) There have been many disputes, and appeals have been made to me on the subject constantly.

"2497. It would be a source of great satisfaction to you, if all that was removed ?-Yes. It is sickening; it is horrible.”

Such is the connexion in which these words are used. Had Mr. Mackinnon dared to distort Evidence before the Court of Queen's Bench, as he has done here and elsewhere in his Report, it might have been the means of procuring him, spite of the privilege of Parliament, a lodging where he had little cared to sleep. As against Mr. Mackinnon's object, Dr. Russell's Evidence derives no inconsiderable force from the fact of his being Chairman of the Highgate Cemetery Company. It will serve further to aggravate the Hon. Member's conduct, if we bring the Bishop of London to support the views of Dr. Russell, whom his Lordship preceded in the Rectory of Bishopsgate.

5. The LORD BISHOP OF LONDON: “I resided myself for eight years in the parish of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate, as Rector. For the first five years of that time, I inhabited the Rectoryhouse, which was situated in the churchyard; the churchyard being very small, compared with the population of the parish, amounting at that time to about ten thousand ; and I was told, before I went into the house, that I should be annoyed, particularly as having a family of young children, from its proximity to the churchyard. However, I must say, that, during a residence there of five years, I suffered no inconvenience whatever ; that I saw no remarkable violation of decency; and that my children's health was not affected. Then I went to live in another part, remote from the churchyard, and I was not sensible

« PreviousContinue »