Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

duty to protect property? But you deliberately destroy it, while your deed is accompanied with neither explanation nor apology.

Let us calmly look at this matter of property, as it relates to families. Your Report, indeed, recommends the exception of

family vaults already existing, the same partaking of the nature of private property, and being of limited extent.” Why this style of mitigated expression ? If we purchase a vault under a chapel, or a grave, with the power to use, or to reserve, or to sell it, is not such vault or grave, in the fullest sense, our

private property ?” What can be more so ? Do then tell us why, without recompence, you take it from us? On what ground do you withhold compensation? But, Sir, this is the lowest view : your Bill is not merely a piece of injustice, it is an act of inhumanity. It inflicts wrongs which gold cannot repair. Is it, in your mind, a light thing to separate families in death? Why do you touch a family grave more than a family mansion? Why dare you practise upon the dead that which you would not even dare to imagine with respect to the living? Why deprive parents and children of the awful privilege of sleeping in the same sepulchre ? Sir, such conduct is fraught with consequences the most solemn and responsible. The tomb is not a fit place for the wanton freaks of tyros in legislation ! Such unhallowed liberties with sacred dust may be endured in infidel France, and among the slave subjects of the despotic governments of Europe, but we do trust it will not be suffered in England ! Surely the spirit of her people is not yet so fallen! Her feelings of reverence for the dead are not yet so blunted !

While we thus remonstrate with you on the impiety of your conduct, and denounce its injustice, we feel that we are pleading not simply for Protestant Dissenters, but also for Churchmen. You have assumed the attitude of the ruthless spoiler of the common sepulchre! You merit to be considered a common

“ It shall be lawful for Churchwardens of any parish," after five years, to level graves, demolish tombstones, and erase the memorials of many generations, and “ to cause" the ravaged mansion of the dead" to be planted with shrubs or trees,” or to be appropriated to any public use or benefit; and after

twenty years," such grounds may be excavated to any depth,

enemy!

66

and the bones and dust of our parents, wives, and children, carted off by wagon-loads, and shot into the nearest brickfield! Sir, are you fond enough to believe that an outrage so gross, and so full of abomination, will be tolerated by Englishmen?

October 13, 1842.

LETTER III.

DESTRUCTIVE EFFECTS OF THE BILL ON DISSENTING CHAPELS.

SIR,-We have already adverted to your proposal to spoliate the people of England of their Family Vaults and Graves, and to convert the dust of their fathers into pleasure-grounds for the diversions of young ladies and gentlemen and the sportive freaks of lap-dogs and children. We now proceed to draw your attention to the effects of your Bill, should it become law, upon those Dissenting Chapels with which Burial Grounds are connected. Such Chapels may be distributed into three classes ; first, those on which there is no debt; secondly, those on which there is a debt, but not a mortgage; and thirdly, those whose debt is in the shape of mortgage.

Of the first of these classes, the number is considerable; but it is not to be supposed, that, because there is no interest to pay for chapel debt, there is, therefore, no outlay connected with such chapels. Very many of them are oppressed with a heavy ground-rent; then there is, the permanent charge for rates, repairs, cleaning, and lighting, frequently amounting to a considerable sum. The Burial Fees, in many cases, generally suffice to meet those demands; they are sometimes less than the sum required, sometimes more. Now, this is no small matter. These fees relieve the ordinary revenue of the Chapels from a burden which would otherwise create a deficiency in other departments of their expenditure. Your Bill, if passed, would annihilate this source of income, and thus operate as a grievous hardship on many a community of great moral worth, but of no opulence. How could such an evil be remedied? The expenses in question must be provided for somehow, or the institution must come to nothing. You leave the parties to make up their own deficiency,

or to lose all. Will you favour the public with your reasons for so harsh and so inequitable a procedure ?

Of the second class of Chapels, namely, those on which there is a debt, but not a mortgage, the number is very great; the debt amounting, in most instances, to many hundreds, and, in a multitude of cases, to thousands of pounds. In the majority of these cases, the money has been obtained on the personal security of the trustees and leading men of the respective Chapels; responsibilities which they were induced to undertake in reliance on the revenues arising from their Burial-gound, which generally sufficed to meet the interest of the sums borrowed, and in some cases to aid in gradually liquidating the debt. This source of revenue was so sure, and, in point of amount, so little liable to fluctuation, that trustees did not hesitate to encounter the responsibility. By your Bill, persons so situated have everywhere been thrown into great consternation. They see that their revenue will be cut off in one hour, never more to return, while their burdens will be hopelessly continued.

What then is to be done? The lenders must have their interest, and also their capital, when any of them happen to demand it. How are they to obtain either the one or the other? The borrowers were in no respect beneficially interested, and, although generally men of character, they are not always, nor indeed frequently men of opulence; but if they were, we submit that it would be unjust to throw upon them such burdens; and if, in a spirit of incredible generosity, the present race should prove willing to bear them, where are successors to be found? How is the half-yearly or annual interest of this vast amount of capital to be paid ? When monies are called in, how are they to be raised ? Who will become security after the burial-grounds are closed? Who will advance the necessary sums without security ? See, then, Sir, the condition to which your Bill, if carried, would reduce all Chapels thus circumstanced! The congregations must either take the burdens on themselves, or the sale of their Chapels and grounds must speedily ensue: if the former, in numerous instances, the weight would be too heavy to be borne; if the latter, their certain ruin follows. In the majority of cases, these congregations have so large sums to raise for the support of their own pastors, for education, missions, and

us.

charities, that to impose heavy additions to their existing burdens, were to act a part alike cruel and unjust in itself, and destructive of the property of Nonconformists.

Of the third of these classes ; namely, those Chapels which have raised money on mortgage, the number is far from small; while the sums may be said to range between one and eight or ten thousand pounds per Chapel. These, of course, comprise chiefly Chapels of the largest size. In many such instances, the sums are too great for mere personal security to be either given or taken; the property, therefore, becomes its own security. But in some cases, the sum required is too much for the convenience or prudence of one party to advance it, even under mortgage, and the result is the introduction of a second, or even of a third mortgagee. We know examples of such triple investment. In all such cases, the property must evidently be of great value. We will specify a strong example, the facts of which are before

It is the case of a Chapel, which, with its spacious vaults, of the best construction, and a burial-ground most eligibly situated, cost upwards of 21,0001. On this estate, in round numbers, the sum of 10,0001. has been borrowed from three parties, upon three distinct deeds of mortgage; the second subject to the first, the third to both. The security, at the date of the deeds, was deemed excellent; and it really was so. Before the suburban Cemeteries were opened, the Mortuary Fees not only met the interest, but yielded a surplus, which, had it continued, would, at no very distant period, have liquidated the debt. Thus, while the Trustees bore their burden with all possible comfort, the congregation were rent-free, and the Mortgagees had no cause for the slightest anxiety respecting their capital. Had the property been sold, it would have brought, at the least, a larger sum than that for which it was mortgaged. What would be the condition of this handsome property, should your ill-considered Bill receive the sanction of Parliament ? Here, you will please to observe, are a new class of sufferers : not the leading men of a religious community, not such a community itself, but a body of men holding property by a legal tenure. Their deeds are their sole security. You close the vaults and the grounds; and, although their deeds are drawn in the same form, and under the same sanction, as those which Abednego the money-lender

[ocr errors]

ever.

holds from Lord Lavish, you would treat them as so much wastepaper. An annual sum of many hundreds of pounds ceases to be received by the Trustees, whose obligations to pay, as you are well aware, depends wholly on their receipts. But there is an end to the latter, and therefore, an end also to the former. The interest of the respective sums ceases to be paid. What is now to be done ? The hopes of the Mortgagees are cut off for

Time cannot improve their position. Nothing remains for them but to act on their security. Well; they foreclose and sell their property. What does it bring? Its value now is simply its worth as a chapel; the grounds and vaults go for nothing, and, as a Place of Worship merely, it might perhaps be considered dear at 2001. per annum. We may consider it sold then for 4,0001.: but very probably it would not bring 3,0001.; for property such as this is not every man's bargain. It has few attractions for the mere capitalist, and none at all for the speculative builder. Who else is to bid for it? It is equally beyond the means and necessities of a small infant congregation of Dissenters : any large and established congregation is, of course, already provided for, and does not want it. The Church-Building Commissioners, if at all they required such a spot, would give for it merely what is worth as a foundation: for they would not condescend to use the existing edifice.

Now, Sir, tell us what you mean to do with these Mortgagees? You utterly destroy their property: and to each of them, for aught you know, it might be ruin. Is the thought comfortable to you? Should you delight in the reflection, that you had brought destruction upon the heads of three honest citizens? It will not avail you to flee to the Sanctuary of Justice, the Hall of Legislation, and there to declaim on “Sanatory Regulations,” Public Health, and so forth. If we are not most egregiously misled, even Mr. Walker himself, with the aid of his friend and worthy coadjutor, Whittaker, would have some difficulty in assigning satisfactory reasons for shutting up the vaults and grounds of the chapel in question. These vaults—we speak after personal inspection-are of but recent erection, and are constructed on the best principles; they would hold thousands, though they do not yet contain hundreds. No burials are permitted there, but in leaden coffins. But what of the adjoining ground? Why, this,

« PreviousContinue »