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THOMAS, LORD ERSKINE, BARON ERSKINE,
Of Restormel Castle, in the County of Cornwall.
&c. &c. &c.
A DEDICATORY EPISTLE.
Happen what may, of me expect to hear
SEVERAL motives have led me to dedicate this performance to your Lordship. The case therein recorded was formerly submitted for your opinion, and a consultation held with you on it, by another learned counsel of the Court of King's Bench, and my Solicitor; which consultation I also attended. You then appeared to take, in the matters laid before you, an interest, such as my utmost vanity could not place to my own account; unhonoured as I was by any acquaintance with, nor indeed having ever seen your Lordship till on that occasion. The step, which, unsolicited on my part, you resolved to take, I therefore regarded as one, more probably suggested by some train of ideas bearing on the interests, personal or relative, of your friends, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and his spiritual Minister. The Most Reverend Primate did not, however, at any time, mention to me your promised conference with him. From which silence of his Grace, oined with subsequent events, I judged your Lordship's interference to have been equally without effect, as the Archbishop's own metropolitan application to his Ecclesiastical Minister, the Judge of the Admiralty, had already proved.
Another motive to this intrusion has arisen out of the circumstances attendant on the second appearance of my case before your Lordship in your visitatorial character. On receiving from his Majesty the seals, your Lordship became charged with the duty of visiting that College of Ecclesiastical Judges and Advocates, from which, in spite of the Most Reverend Primate's endeab
vours, I was, and still am, unjustly excluded. After the failure of his Grace's metropolitan efforts, I had appealed to him as Visitor, and to the other Visitors of that College. My appeal had been accepted, and an assurance twice given me that I should be heard on it. Such was the state of things, when, owing to a change in his Majesty's councils, the appointed hearing of my arguments, in support of my accepted appeal, devolved upon your Lordship. Instead, however, of the assurances so given to me being fulfilled, or the arrangement, made for that purpose between the Archbishop of Canterbury and my Lord Eldon, carried into effect; I was, shortly after your Lordship became a Visitor of the College, dismissed unheard. The notification of that dismissal, sent me by the order* of your Lordship and the Visitors, having informed me, that
my petition had been referred to the parties against whom I had meant to appeal ;" and that " from their answer thereto I should see, that the business could not be brought before those Visitors," by whom my appeal had been accepted, before whom it had already lain more than six months, and from whom I had twice received an express assurance, that I should be heard on it. My reply to your Lordship's order of dismissal, and to the falsehoods alleged in the note, which it enclosed, was not honoured by any mark of your Lordship's attention. Having been dismissed unheard, after the repeated assurances given to me, and from such a quarter, I could not wonder that my remonstrance was deemed unworthy of notice.
It would surely, my Lord, be a fruitless waste of time and labour, were I to seek a precedent for this transaction in the history, either of our spiritual, or our civil jurisprudence. Neither can I think that the annals of English military discipline are furnished with its parallel. On this latter point I shall however yield with deference to your Lordship's superior means of information. Bred in the embattled field, and (as I believe) the first soldier of fortune, who, by a lucky change of his calling, and by quitting for the gown the sword, ever became Lord Chancellor of England, your Lordship could not fail of acquiring such an insight into the economy and laws of that profession, which occupied your earlier years, as must enable you to decide the question : Is it, my Lord, I would ask, is it a precedented and a wonted thing in his
See Narrative of Facts, page 20. It is true that the notice of my dismissal from before the Visitors was sent me by the order of the Archbishop of Canterbury. But when I considered that his Majesty's royal charter, creating the visitatorial jurisdiction, gives to his Grace no separate or exclusive powers, nor any authority to act as Visitor, unless conjointly with, at least, two of the other Visitors, I, of necessity regarded my dismissal, not as the separate act of the Archbishop of Canterbury, but as the act of the whole visitatorial jurisdiction.
+ See Narrative of Facts, page 21, of this performance.
Majesty's army, for a man, thinking himself wronged and " oppressed," and appealing to his superiors for redress, his appeal accepted, and himself kept six months in waiting for the hearing twice promised him, to be at length told, that his petition has been submitted to his opponents and "oppressors," by whose reply he will find himself unentitled to be heard, and that he is, accordingly, dismissed unheard?
A further encouragement to the freedom I am taking offered itself to my mind, on recurring to times, (now some years gone by) when you, my Lord, so ably and successfully stood forward in defence of men struggling under "Hardship and Injustice." Such, for instance, as the Dean of St. Asaph, and Mr. Stockdale. In those former days, a sure Asylum from " Oppression" was open to whomsoever your Lordship's unrivalled eloquence vouchsafed to cover with the "Golden Shield" of law, and liberty, and chartered rights. While retracing your Lordship's brilliant labours in the cause of Justice, reflecting also on the "Injustice" I am suffering, and picturing to myself those former "Champions of Justice," the Advocates in our Church's spiritual courts, now reduced to a precarious dependance on a Judge's nod,* I have, together with a plea for this intrusion, seen further reason to regret, for my own and for the public's sake, the insufficiency (at the promised conference) even of your Lordship's eloquence, against the all-conquering " wishes" of my monopolizing sub-episcopal opponents.
If this small volume should be honoured by your perusal, arguments and opinions, touching these canonical matters, (and chiefly drawn from high authorities) will present themselves to your Lordship's notice. Its chief object being to prove, in the first place, that, even if I am a Clegyman, no law exists for my exclusion from the office of an Ecclesiastical Advocate; and, secondly, that, although such a law did actually exist, and although I also were still a Clergyman, yet could not the dusty rolls of our Church's canons, with decency or fairness, in the present times, be taken down and explored to find it, nor that law consistently enforced, when found. Such is the end and purpose of my Work. I shall, in this place, offer to your Lordship a remark or two on the means adopted, for precluding the necessity, or even the expediency, of such a laborious, fruitless, and uncleanly search into the laws and ordinances of our Holy Church. And, as the chief of these, shall briefly observe on the nature and effects of that EXPEDIENCY, now introduced, in place of "the King's Ecclesiastical Laws of England," into our frame of spiritual government. Ut
The severities, exercised on his Majesty's subjects in these courts, (superintended by the Archbishop of Canterbury) and by this Judge, being also, even in Mr. Attorney General's opinion, somewhat above par.