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church, is a criminal act, and certain delinquents of St. Georges-in-the-East have been taken to the police court. With what result ? So far as we can see, only to have the wellknown fact propounded by the magistrates, that it was all very disgraceful; and they hoped they might hear no more about it. If a curate assault a parishioner, and catch himn by his coattails, jamming them in the church door, he is brought up and fined two shillings-not because the assault was proved, but to prevent any triumph to the party of which the poor captured fellow, who thus ignominiously adhered to the church, was a member. Again, if a silly and mischievous fool is apprehended by the police for howling and screaming at the parson, and obstructing the service, sentence is deferred, to enable the rioters to settle their own differences, and make up
The magistrates, in fact, refer the disputes to the combatantsonly sending on Sundays a police force, to keep the fellowworshippers from pitching into each other.
But this non-operation of the criminal law being unsuccessful, an attempt is made at the mild intervention of the bishop as arbitrator. He orders that the parsons should not exhibit themselves in masquerade, with green, or blue, or orange, or motley ; the order is evaded by the conscientious pastor, who dexterously persists, nevertheless, in asserting his so-called religious principles, and thus harassing his foolish fold. Then the church is shut
awhile instead of the clergymen (which might be a more successful plan), and the folly and brutality is renewed on the first practicable occasion. The intervention then of the police magistrate, and the friendly interference of the bishop, have alike proved useless.
It does appear to us, without regard to religious parties or the origin of the disturbance, that the magistrates at least ought to have enforced the law more vigorously and resolutely. The protection of society required that those who took part in the proved violence should have been visited with severe punishment. The treatment of the question was, however, within the discretion of the magistrates, and they have exercised it with no
good effect. What more the bishop could do as arbitrator than he did, we do not know. Probably, with the material he had to deal with—nothing.
There is, however, the procedure of the ecclesiastical court, which may
be resorted to. “ The law is open; let them implead one another," as saith St. Paul. If an incumbent is carrying on uncanonical practices, he can be cited according to law. The mode of proceeding would be either, 1st—by admonition ; or 2nd-by suspension ab ingressu ecclesiæ.
By 5 and 6 Edw. VI. c. 4, sec. 1—“If any person shall by words only quarrel, chide, or brawl, in any church or churchyard, it shall be lawful unto the ordinary of the place where the same offence shall be done, and proved by two lawful witnesses, to suspend every person so offending; and if he be a clerk, from the ministration of his office for so long time as the said ordinary shall think meet, according to the fault.” By sec. 2—“If any person shall smite or lay any violent hands upon another in any church or churchyard, then ipso facto every person so offending shall be deemed excommunicate, and be excluded from the fellowship and company of Christ's congregation.” In Hutchins v. Denziloe (1 Consist. 181), Lord Stowell observed with reference to the statute, that it was “an act certainly made in the exigency of the times, at the Reformation, when there prevailed great heats and animosities in religion, which were likely enough to break out in churches. The act did not create this offence, as it subsisted by the common law before any statute was enacted, and there is no donbt that the ecclesiastical court had a right to interfere, to assist or prevent any act of disturbance of the public worship.” The 3rd sec. of the statute refers to the drawing of weapons, an offence not common in our day; but the penalty attached thereto, besides excommunication, is, that the offender « shall have one of his ears cut off, and, if he have no ears, he shall be burned on the cheek with a hot iron having the letter F, whereby he may be known and taken for a fraymaker and fighter." However, we do not contend for this latter wholesome penalty, for it could not be enforced in these days.
How in a still earlier period of civilisation brawling was punished, may be read in Kennett's “Parochial Antiquities” (p. 233), where will be found a narrative of a fight in a church between the respective ladies of Richard L'Estrange and Sir John Trussel, on a difficulty arising out of “precedency of place,” in the church of St. Dunstan's-in-the-East. The two husbands of course, and all their respective retinue, were quickly involved in the quarrel,
some were killed and many wounded within the church.” So the church was therefore suspended from divine offices, and Lord and Lady 'Strange did penance by walking barefooted from St. Paul's to St. Dunstan’s, and by presenting to the altar gifts worth £15. Archbishop Chichely imposed this penalty ; but could we now, in these days of threepenny ’Busses and Pickford's vans, tolerate such a procession through our streets ?
Under 53 Geo. III. c. 27, imprisonment may also be inflicted for brawling with smiting; but the real punishment in all these cases is the costs, which, as the proceeding is pro salute animo, no offender would object to pay. If, however, any rash, ill-advised incumbent or churchwarden put this law into operation, we are assured by those practically acquainted with this piece of civilized law, that he generally spends his own money (never less than £100) in costs, and gets nothing from the wicked brawler except likely enough an assurance, more or less satisfactory, that the offender has spent all that he had in his defence, and therefore the promoter finds it necessary to pay his own costs and clear the account.
The ecclesiastical courts then are, in their obsolete forms and practical injustice, worse than useless. The rich or foolish may appeal to them in revenge, or in obedience to a strong party feeling; but they do not accomplish the legitimate object of legal tribunals.
The “stone altar case” cost thousands of pounds, and established no principle of any value whatever. Then, again, the Knightsbridge church case occupied learned doctors and able proctors most profitably. And, no doubt, if it be wrong in a priest to put on sea-green, or tea-green, or pea-green gar
ments, their legality can be investigated in like manner, and the offender be made to pay not only his tailor's but two proctors' bills, and court fees; but at what costs ? and with what result ? Again, if a lusty butcher's boy, or draper's apprentice, or Calvinistic costermonger, bellow during service-time, and obstruct the congregation, he can be prosecuted for brawling if one can find a person foolish enough to “promote” such a proceeding. Practically speaking, Bishop Tait could not cause to be suspended, « ab ingressu ecclesice," the Houndsditch costermonger, who asserts on Sundays at church his Protestant principles by brawling obscenely at an obnoxious curate, or by drugging big dogs and turning them into the church. Again, the ecclesiastical law could be set in operation against the youth who, when brought before the magistrate, told him that he had gone, and should go to the church of St. George's-in-the-East, because he detested the service; and who, being in that frame of mind, of course got to blows with a high-church cheesemonger. But if either of these belligerents were excommunicated, it would be the making of his fortune? He would be retained at high wages at some neighbouring tavern as a curiosity, and form a great attraction ; or perhaps might give his name to the waterproof cape of the season, or be immortalized in a new style of tobacco-pipe.
The statute we have just referred to, was the one alluded to in a well-known case (which we may be pardoned for mentioning here) “as a half-obsolete statute of one of the Edwards." In the case in question, it seems the affidavits were very numerous-eight-and-twenty in number—by which it appeared that ' at a certain vestry-meeting in the parish of cited' had made use of and applied to the prosecutor the words • You be blowed !”” and again, notwithstanding remonstrance, and under circumstances which nothing could extenuate, again repeated the expression, “You be blowed !' and furthermore requested to know whether the prosecutor wanted any thing for himself; adding, that if he did, he the cited individual was the inan to give it him,' and at the same time using other heinous
1 It is mentioned that he was a ginger-beer seller by trade.
VOL. VIII. NO. XVI.
and sinful expressions, wherefore, for the soul's health of the brawler, the prosecutor prayed excommunication against him.” Eventually was passed “the awful sentence of excommunication for a fortnight, and payment of costs of the suit.” Application was then made to the court upon behalf of the unfortunate man thus excommunicated, “ That they'd be good enough to take off the costs, and excommunicate him for the term of his natural life instead.” This application was indignantly refused.-—(Bumple v. Sludberry, Dickens, 52.)
We submit to our readers that the present state of the law exhibits such frailty and imbecility that it should be forthwith amended. First, the Anglican church being Episcopal, the bishop should have primarily power to put an end to buffoonery in a church, and to suspend clerical mountebanks, and generally to take notice of all irregularities in churches, with, of course, a right of appeal by those whom he visits with the terrors of bis mitre. There should be such a court of appeal that a rector, vicar, or curate, might safely apply to it without being ruined, and a bishop might appear therein without being worried to death. It is a mockery to point to the present ecclesiastical courts as the proper tribunal for the determination of such disputes as those of St. George-in-the-East. And, secondly, we demand that real redress in the police courts should be afforded. If the magistrate can now legally escape adjudicating on questions of riot in churches brought before him, the law should be so altered as to render it obligatory on him to hear and determine such matters when brought before him.