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of their powers, by the dissent of the majority being conclusive against their presentee, was at once to disappear.
In 1834, then, the measure was passed. Let us now look to its practical operation. : In 1835 the General Assembly found it necessary to address to the Presbyteries and to the Church a pastoral admonitionwarning the people against attempts to wrest the Act to undue purposes, and reminding them that 'all caballing and canvassing for obtaining the appointment of a particular person to be minister, and all combination beforehand for that purpose, are inconsistent with the principle of the Act, and ought to disable every man who acts with a due regard to his Christian character, whatever may be his opinion on the law of patronage, from conscientiously declaring in the terms which may be required of him.'
A sound, and doubtless well-merited admonition, evincing by its earnestness that it bore reference to more than one foregone conclusion; unfortunately, however, just as likely to be obeyed by those to whom it was addressed as if the Venerable Assembly had set a stone in motion from a hill-top, and had recommended to it to descend with caution and circumspection.
In point of fact, several rejections had taken place in the course of 1834 marked by features of gross caprice and injustice ; among others, that of the presentee to AUCHTERARDER, possessing the highest testimonials from the Presbytery which had licensed him, and where he had officiated. To that case, however, we shall afterwards have occasion to recur. Meantime let us proceed, though somewhat at the sacrifice of chronological arrangement, with a few specimens of the working of the Veto Act.
One feature which has been extremely common in the case of the application of the Veto is, that the very same individuals who have petitioned for the appointment of a particular individual as minister-have been the first to veto him when appointed.
In the case of Lethendy, out of the majority of fifty-three who dissented to Mr. Clark, forty had signed the petition for his appointment. In Mortlach fifty of those who had petitioned for Mr. Cruickshank dissented against him. Twenty such cases might be named. Indeed the evil, and the consequent ridicule and exposure, became so palpable that by-and-bye the Assembly were obliged to pass the remarkable resolution that the Veto
* So inconsistent and indefensible was this part of the measure felt to be, that it was dropped about four years afterwards, though not till after the Court of Session had, by their judgment in the Auchterarder case, declared the whole act illegal. Had the judgment been the other way, there is no doubt that this convenient exception in favour of the clergy would have been retained.
should not be allowed to be exercised against a presentee by those who had previously petitioned for him!
In the case of Logie Easter, the patron, most anxious to pre. sent a person who should be acceptable to the parish, submitted to the choice of the people five clergymen, ordained ministers, tried and known already in other cures, and of the highest character. The answer of the people was, that they had every possi. ble respect for the gentlemen named, but had no intention of accepting any of them, their minds being already and determinedly made up to make choice of no other than an individual of their own selection—to whom they had already offered the parish. The patron, finding it hopeless to deal with such objectors, presented one of the persons on his list. He was vetoed as a matter of course ; all the dissentients, who had previously avowed that they would have no other than the man of their own choice, having taken without hesitation the solemn declaration that they were actuated solely by conscientious motives in their rejection. The result was that, after the parish had remained vacant nearly two years and a half, the patron was obliged to give up every one of the gentlemen whom he had named, and the people condescended to concur in the choice of another.
The scene which occurred in the church when the dissents were taken in this case is described by the Presbytery (most friendly to the veto) as one of the most disgraceful violence and indecency; one of their own brethren exciting the multitude, and they themselves being threatened with personal violence. And, finally, as an illustration how far the principle that the end justifies the means may in such cases be carried, it was found that in the Roll of Communicants which, as made up and signed by the deceased clergyman, formed the legal register of those entitled to dissent, one name had been inserted after the completion of the roll, and after his death, by a member of Presbytery! .
In the case of the parish of St. Martin's, where Mr. For Maule, acting, in fact, as the representative of the Government (the pre. sentation belonging to the Crown), had intimated his intention of appointing to the vacant cure any one whom four-fifths of the parishioners should agree in selecting, it was found impossible after two disorderly meetings—the latter so tumultuous that the chairman, Mr. Nairne, left the chair in disgust—to obtain the requisite amount of concurrence in favour of any one candidate. The expedient of a leet was then tried, and a second series of competition preachings took place. The Roll of Communicants for the previous year, not having been made up, now came to be adjusted--and “The claims for enrolment were so numerous, and many of them of so
equivocal a kind, and the objections brought forward by the contending parties were urged with such vigour, that the Kirk session might be compared to a registration court held on the eve of a contested election, were not the comparison too favourable for the Ecclesiastical Court."* Agents perambulated the parish canvassing the voters. Publichouses were kept open by individuals taking an active part for one candidate or another. The presence of police-officers and of the civil magistrate was found necessary when the votes came to be taken.
While the vote was being taken several stratagems developed themselves. An old man had been sent to a distance with a letter, which letter contained instructions to retain him until the election was over. A messenger was immediately despatched by the opposite party to bring him—but, not being found, his daughter was admitted in his stead ;' her vote of course being received as that of the male head of a family! The result was a small majority in favour of one of the candidates, obtained, as it appeared to Government, by such questionable means, that they declined to appoint the candidate thus chosen, and bestowed the church upon the choice of the minority.
'Inflammatory placards and declamatory harangues at public meetings are among the most innocent measures resorted to, and when angry feelings have been awakened the continued application of these means serves to keep alive the flame. Besides these, bribery, intimidation, intoxication, and the like, are the natural means for stimulating the worst passions of members of society, and these accordingly have been abundantly resorted to. Even on the day of the moderation of the call persons have been brought forward on that solemn occasion under the influence of intoxicating liquors, and having ourselves witnessed the fact in one case we can easily credit what we have heard regarding others.'— Church Review, 1837.
If we pause here it is not that our instances are exhausted, —would they were—but that the subject is too painful and degrading to be longer dwelt upon. Would not anyone in perusing these details suppose that he was suddenly involved in the scenes of riot, profligacy, and fraud which characterise a contested Westminster election? Canvassing and bribery, intimidation, intoxication, vitiation of the records, abduction of voters, personation of voters, desecration of churches by tumultuary meetings, and the pulpit lending its aid to stimulate the contest and to deepen the confusion! These are the pacific consequences of that measure which, according to the sanguine anticipations of its mover, was
* This passage, with some of the subsequent details of the cases referred to, is quoted from a statement in the Church Review, April and May, 1837; for the accuracy of which the Dean of Faculty vouches in a note to his Letter,
«« to put an end to the trade of agitation," by acting “not as a force in exercise, but as a force in reserve," “like the beautiful operation of those balancing and antagonist forces in nature which act by pressure and not by collision, and, by means of an energy which is mighty but noiseless, maintain the quiescence and stability of our physical system !” – Dr. Chalmers's Speech, 1833.
It is said, no doubt, the veto law latterly has worked better; that there have been fewer cases of the exercise of the right. The simple explanation of the matter is that in the majority of cases, patrons, knowing the resolution of the people to use unsparingly the power vested in them, and shrinking from the prospect of vindicating their rights by litigation, and of the spiritual destitution of the parish during the contest, have latterly preferred surrendering to the people a privilege which had become a mockery so far as any real value was attached to it, and remained a reality only in the bad feeling and evil consequences which its exercise was certain to engender. In fifty-one cases out of ninety-four vacancies occurring prior to the spring of 1837, the patron either handed over the choice to the people, or appointed the person whom they had previously selected. The exercise of the right could only take place then in the remaining forty-three cases ; and in point of fact the number of cases of rejection was greater in 1837 than in 1836, having risen nearly to one-half, or eight out of nineteen presentations.
All patrons, however, were not disposed to submit to these encroachments, and accordingly, so far back as 1834, shortly after the measure had passed, the presentee to the parish of Auchterarder, Mr. Young, having been vetoed, raised, in conjunction with the patron, an action against the Presbytery, concluding to have it found that their rejection of Mr. Young as presentee, ó without making trial of his qualifications in competent and legal form, and without any objections having been stated to his qualifications, or against his admission as ininister of the church and parish of Auchterarder,' in respect of a veto of the parishioners, was illegal—that they were bound and astricted to make trial of his quulifications, and, if found qualified, to receive and admit the pursuer as minister of the church and parish of Auchterarder according to law.'
The result is well known. The Court of Session, after most elaborate hearing, in which everything which research or ingenuity could bring to bear upon the question was exhausted, decided by a majority, that the rejection in respect of the veto was illegal--that the Presbytery were still bound to take the presentee on trials, and, if found qualified, to receive him as ininister of the parish to which he had been presented according to law.
The The judgment of the Court of Session was appealed against by the Church, and affirmed by the House of Lords—the Lord Chancellor and Lord Brougham stating that the only difficulty they had in the case was to conceive wherein the difficulty felt by the minority of the Court of Session had lain. Thus then the illegality of the Act of Assembly, its violation of the statutory civil rights of patrons and presentees, was conclusively settled by the supreme judicature of the country upon an appeal taken by the Church itself.
The result then which Dr. Chalmers anticipated from the first—had occurred. It was now apparent that in every case in which the Church proceeded to act upon her own law the legal provision for the sustentation of the ministry in that parish might be suspended,' to use the peculiar phraseology of Dr. Chalmers' very singular motion in 1838; or, in the plainer language of his pamphlet of 1840, “the temporalities would be severed from the cure, the minister stripped of his legal provision, and the good of a national establishment nullified in that parish. It has been farther admitted by him, that, had the majority in the Assembly foreseen this consequence, which ‘ put the highest moral interests of the country into a state of the most fearful precariousness,' the veto law would never have been passed. What reasonable inference then could have been drawn, except that, now that this dreaded consequence had been verified, which if foreseen would have prevented the passing of the Act, the Act would be forthwith rescinded by the same authority by which it had inadvertently been passed ?
Such was certainly the general impression formed as to the probable proceedings of Dr. Chalmers and the majority when the Assembly met in 1839, after the affirmance by the House of Lords of the judgment in the case of Auchterarder. Entertaining certain views as to her own powers, the Church was (perhaps) entitled to assume the legality of her own act, till the supreme tribunal of the country should declare it to be illegal. But that being done, reasonable men could not conceive that, with the consequences so clearly before them as they appear to have been, the majority of the Assembly would still proceed to re-enact and re-transmit to Presbyteries, as the law of the Church, the very act which had just been solemnly pronounced to be illegal and beyond its powers. Yet such was in substance the motion of Dr. Chalmers in the Assembly of 1839, followed by the relative instructions to Presbyteries. They still resolved that the veto law should not be abandoned; they still made it imperative on Presbyteries, in the case of dissent by a majority, to refuse to take the presentee on trials, the very point which had in terminis been decided to be illegal in the Auchterarder case. The drift of Dr.