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The following Letters are republished from the Patriot newspaper by the Committee for Opposing the Bill for “ The Improvement of Health in Towns.” Without pledging themselves to every statement or sentiment they contain, the Committee are of opinion that they will be found to be an able and faithful exposition of the nature and tendency of the Bill; and they have now much pleasure in tendering their cordial thanks to the laborious and gifted Author for the service he has thus rendered to civil freedom, religious equality, and the rights of property.
JAMES EDWARDS, Chairman.
30th Nov., 1842.
THE DISSENTERS OF ENGLAND.
GENERAL REMARKS ON THE EVIDENCE AND ON THE BILL.
On the 8th of March last, the House of Commons “ ordered that a Select Committee be appointed to consider the expediency of forming some legislative enactments (due respect being paid to the rights of the Clergy) to remedy the evils arising from the Interment of Bodies within the precincts of large towns, or of places densely populated.” On the 15th of the same month a Committee was nominated; on the 19th it began the examination of witnesses; and on the 5th of May it terminated its labours. On the 14th of June the Committee presented its Report to the House, with the Minutes of Evidence. On the 5th of the present month, Messrs. Mackinnon, Cowper, and Beckett brought in a Bill for the accomplishment of the contemplated object, which, by the order of the House, has been printed. These documents are before us; we have carefully sifted them; we have well weighed their character, and considered their tendency; and now hasten to apprise you of the evil and danger to be apprehended from them. In doing this, we shall not, at present, proceed beyond general statements, which we shall hereafter substantiate.
The Bill professes to consider the subject under three heads : to prove a Nuisance, to provide a Remedy, and to protect Vested Rights. To establish a nuisance, was the leading object of the Evidence which was taken by the Committee ; and that this has been done in some cases, appears probable; but that it has been
done upon a scale so general as to constitute a proper basis for such a measure as is proposed, will, we think, be allowed by no man of common sense, after due investigation. Had this examination of witnesses passed the ordeal of the Queen's Bench, the Evidence would have been reduced to a few pages. Most of the Committee seem to have been mere novices in the work of examination ; and many of the witnesses, confessedly, knew nothing whatever about the main subject. The aim of the chief movers seems to have been, to get together a mass of matter as horrible and harrowing as possible ; whether of the relators' own knowledge, or of hearsay, or of belief, or of suspicion, was a thing of small moment. Of this we shall give some curious specimens in the sequel. Again, by far the most revolting portions of the evidence have no bearing whatever upon the question. Such portions may prove the existence of a certain kind of nuisance; but, for such nuisances, assuredly the present measure is not the remedy. Nor is this all: not a little of the Evidence, even when pertinent, is unworthy of credit; while that which is beyond suspicion clearly contradicts it, and demonstrates the folly and injustice of the project. The history of Select Committees for the last fifty years, fertile as that history is in examples of things which but ill comport with the purity of justice and with the dignity of legislation, presents nothing more exceptionable and faulty than the Evidence before us.
On evidence so unsatisfactory, the Committee recommend the shutting up of all the places of sepulture in and around the metropolis, and throughout all the great towns of England, and the construction of Cemeteries at considerable distances. A step so very serious called for much care, caution, and deliberation. To a vast majority of our metropolitan population, the scheme is fraught with cruelty. To hundreds of thousands it will prove a wanton outrage on the most tender and sacred feelings of human nature. It will rob the multitudes of the lower and middle classes, among whom the remains of natural affection still continue to operate, of the chief solace of sorrowing friendship -the privilege of following to the tomb the dust of those who once were dear. It will involve an increase of expenditure to the already impoverished masses which they cannot bear; and that, too, at a time when, respectively, they can least of all sus