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am induced to make some observations on them; as if in thi next session of parliament, or at any future period, the legisi lature should feel disposed to reconsider our hard condition, and to do something further in relief of. poor Curates; it is not improbable, but that the arguments offered in your pages by the Rector, may have some weight with the members of both houses of parliament to abate their zeal in our causes Your Miscellany has now assumed an importance arid circulation extensive and commanding, and is a text book in church affairs with many members of the British -senate: such being the case, it is more than probable that all remarks unfavourable to our order appearing there, will operate in a sinister way to us elscwh«re. You will consider it therefore^ I trust, as a matter of justice, that the remarks of a poor curate, should find as easy access to your pages, as those of a beneficed clergyman and pluralist, whose object seems to be, to depress our order beneath what it is at present, in its very hu-i miliated state; and though I pretend not to brandish the weapons of controversy with equal skill and adroitness with a Nestor in this art; yet I hope the plain arguments of a plain man, unused to engage in the field of polemics, will draw the attention of the liberal and generous-minded to the sufferings of the inferior clergy, or excite one of our own order more skillful than myself, to stand forth in our defence. The Rector sets off with complaining of the arbitrary power the Curates' Act throws' into the hands of bishops; because it seems unconstitutional, and that it will suit better in an arbitrary government than in one which makes every right and obligation as definite as possible. How can the Rectos deem it unconstitutional, when the right itself is defined and acknowledged, and the limitations settled by an act of parliament; as the power of the crown itself is, and every other power which is delivered into the hands of a subject. It is a right established in immemorial practice, for the state to settle the wages of its servants, and to proportion them to the price of provisions and the exigencies of the times. Curate* are recognized by the alliance betwixt the church and state, as the servants of the public, and a right has ever been assumed by parliament to provide for their support, out of the property appropriated by he state for the maintenance of the clergy. In the present act nothing new has been done, but extending the scale of allowance of salary, in a just proportion to the quantum of duty performed and the value of the livings, which the bishops are to adjust in all cafes, to the value and merits of each respectively, according
to the best of their judgments; who are, doubtless, by far the most competent judges to decide in this business. Can the Rector point out instances where the power has been abused? if he cannot, to the exercise of the right itself there can be no objection. If we look into the courts of law, we shall fee this right practised from immemorial custom, without any positive enactment, so far as I know of, of any law, by the judges who regulate the fees of office and tax the costs of suits; and no one complains of its being arbitrary and oppressive: it is assumed by men who are elevated far above meanness or corruption, whose practice has advanced them to the spotless ermine, and whose honour and integrity in their profession, are the solemn pledges to the public for their future conduct. And this is a cafe exactly in point, the power the Curates' Act vests in the hands of the bench of bishops, is nearly similar in all respects but one.where the power of granting and apportioning the salary is limited to a specific sum; though I conceive and agree with the Rector.that the scale of allowance might still be enlarged in livings, such as Win-, wick, Doddington, and Simonburn, and other benefices which exceed the ordinary value of livings in savour of the curate; but supposing biihops to be more unjust than other men, and to espouse the cause of curates against the beneficed clergy, which is what he does not directly charge them with, for he warily compliments the present bench ot bishops, at least so far as his knowlege extends, for the disinterested manner in. which they have acted, whilst he supposes the practice of one set of bishops is no security for the prailice of another; but even if it should be so, the act secures the due administration of itself; for the mischief could not be extensive if they should lay on £j§ per annum, with the stable and gardens, on benefices that could not well support it, but the average value of livings can support it; where it cannot vacate; the emolument of the benefice being the price of service, and the labourer being worthy his hire, if you cannot live on the cure, give it up to those who will do the service for the emoluments, and then there will be an end to the dispute. But the Act has still provided a remedy in cafe you are oppressed by your diocesan, you may recur to the archbishop; no says the rector; because it may make your diocesan more your enemy than he was before; but I will ask, is not this an accident that affects the curate as much as the beneficed clergy? it is an unpleasant thing to go to law, and appeal from poe court to another, but no one ever dreams of such childish
objections, objections, when he has rights to defend, or ever dreads going to the fame court again, because it has decided against him be. fore. But why should lodging this power in the bench of bishops be more arbitrary, than placing the like power in the hand* of the judges for another purpose; are not they in every re spect as proper depositaries for the execution of the act, as the judges are to arrange the fees of office and the costs of suits? they are both elevated to the ranks of the peerage, in a way honourable to themselves, which bears the highest teftimony to their integrity and virtue: and the degree of elevation bishops hold in the church, puts them far above the ordinary temptations of meanness and partiality. They have been raised through all the ranks of the priesthood, and must be intimately acquainted with the relations and interests of every order they have passed through; they exactly know in al} cafes how to proportion the rate of salary to the value of the living, and the duty to be performed under the limitations of the act: they are well acquainted, Sir, with the affluence of rectors and the poverty ot curates, the comfort of the former state and the misery of the latter. No order of persons are so proper to bear this judicial power as the bench of bishops, they cannot be influenced by private emoluments; there is nothing to tempt them to cupidity or oppression, their duty and interest are intimately concerned to promote the good of the church. But the Rector would take the power out of the hands of bishops and vest it in those of the beneficed clergy, and leave its operation to the general and moral feelings of his order: I fear the consequence of -such a resort; here the degrading and ill effects of bargaining would be attended with much worse consequences than what attends it at present; which is a state of independence compared to what the Rector would reduce our order. The. hands into which our legislators have placed it ar present, evinces the most consummate wisdom, in them the public have a security for the due execution of it, and we at leaft are satisfied with the trust being lodged where it i6. They have confided the appellant jurisdiction then to the most proper persons, for both law and reason determine that ad, man ought to be a judge in his own cause :• it therefore takes the power out of the hands of the parties concerned, and, places it in the hands of those who have no favour or affection to either, but as it tends to promote the cause of humanity and justice, and the religion they profess: ip this, point of view it resembles the correcting power of a machine,
Which interferes with none of the subordinate powers, but to regulate, accelerate, and to harmoriize their movement, which takes off the friction, prevents disgraceful squabbles, and injurious contracts amongst us. The degrading point of View into which our order is fallen, in the estimation of the Rector, is perceptible in the illustration he has used to support his theory. They are such |as to "verify the adage, Comparisons are odious. Atone time our order is compared to beggars, and at another to common soldiers and sailors : why not, Sir, to parish clerks and sextons? this would not have been in point, for they are fixed for life; have stated salaries ■ and fees, which are improved as the exigencies of the times require, though not regulated by act of parliament. Why could you not, Sir, have put us on a level with the subalterns of the army and navy? they have their pay regulated from lime to time, and when that was done, as in a late instance, the nation admired and applauded. We presume not, Sir, to put ourselves on a footing with your order, though Our studies and* pursuits have been the fame, we have trodden the fame academic groves and taken the fame degrees with yourself; we have not crept into the fold by stealth; we have come openly and fairly into the vineyard, invited jointly by the church and state, who are under a solemn pledge to take care of us. We are recognized by them as the servants of the public, they contemplate in our order, the rank of subalterns in Christ's Church militant here on earth, and as such entitled to their attention. They see, Sir, among our order, men of the most brilliant talents often distinguished only by their poverty; but for whom, though they have neglected to provide in a suitable manner, they will not give them tip to oppression: pity and parsimony so alternately operating in their bosoms, that though they acknowledge our claims, they have not yet relieved our wants, and though they have not mitigated our sufferings, they do not deny us their compassion ; a ready substitute often for generosity. They know, Sir, we are zealous servants of the public, the only parts ot the priesthood that bear any resemblance to our great Master and his Apostles: they fee that we support the column on which the church stands, though we have none of the gilt and ornaments that adorn the frieze and capital.
You would, Sir, however, supersede the salutary provisions of the Curates' Act altogether, and leave the regulations of our stipends to the exercise of the private benevolence of
Val.XlU. Churckm. Mag. for Sep. 1807.
the benefited clergy,to be governed by no other restraint bat what i$ imposed, by a fense of those duties which are of imferfetl oHigaticn: by which the curate fliould have no other title to support, than the poor who comes to your door asking an alms. " Some Rectors," he observes, " might, if at liberty, give less to the poor than they would, if actuated by tine Christian charity, but is that thought a reason why some superior should have authority to compel, and that arbitrarily, though within limits" I will answer, yes, and because the poor themselves are entitled to support by a possitive statute as well as ourselves; why in our rights should we be degraded beneath them, if paupers engage the attention of government, why would not we? Their relief depends not solely on private benevolence, nor on the parsimony of parish officers.—Why should ours rest solely on the precarious benevolence of our immediate superiors? the Curates' Act is founded on an intimate knowledge of human nature; that it is never safe to trust power in the hands of any man, who has an interest in oppressing the person who is placed within his reach: the vital spirit of British jurisprudence is protection, not oppession. It is not possible or likely, that our government, even as a matter of policy, should deprive us of that privilege our legislators confer on all its other servants without exception; they are continually regulating their pay according to the price of provisions and the circumstances of the times, and adapting comforts to their situation, to stimulate their exertions in their duties to the public: it is not likely I think, viewing their general conduct in this particular, that thsy should throw us on the mercy of our immediate superiors. What would a lieutenant of the army or navy fa)', (and by the bye, their service is no more compulsive than ours, which is an argument the Rector lays great stress on, when he speaks ot our motives for entering the church, but it is' never reduced to a question why he thought proper to serve his majesty, having once entered into it, however he is considered as having a just title to support). I ask what a lieutenant of the navy or army would say then; if his service was reduced to that humiliated condition to depend upon his captain for his pay, to be rated according to his merits, or the voluntary benevolence, of his immediate superior; would this insure that ready submission and obedience the service requires on one hand, or command respect and condescension mingled with authority «ju the other? would it give vigour to our fleets or armies?