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NOVEMBER, 1830. Vol. V.
The Charter of the Free School for the Inhabitants of Birmingham, founded and endowed by King Edward the Sixth, 2d January, 1552.*
We shall invite the attention of our readers to a single class of very recent facts connected with this Charter.
The governors of King Edward the Sixth's Free Grammar School in Birmingham, submitted to the last Parliament, at an advanced period of its final session, a Bill for the enlargement of their powers, and the more effectual administration of their trust. This they did under the authority and direction of the Court of Chancery. The Billt originated, as, in such cases, is the usage, in the House of Lords, where it was read for the first time, early in May [13th], the second time, May 17th, and was ordered to be considered in Committee on Friday the 28th day of the same month.
It is of importance to state, that the governors, though, on this occasion, as in many a former instance, they had been for some time‡ before the Chancellor, and had long projected the Bill of which we are speaking, made, however, no communication of their design and views to the inhabitants of Birmingham. For the inhabitants of that town King Edward VI. had granted the Charter and founded the School: yet in no degree or way had they been consulted as to the measures contemplated by the
London. Longman & Co. 1830. 8vo. 18. p. It is a "literal copy of the Charter," which has been made from an official extract, accurately collated with the original record in the Chapel of the Rolls. A translation is printed in parallel columns, and a brief note of the subjectmatter of each section is placed in the margin." Editor's Advertisement.
†This Bill consisted partly of a long recital [twenty-six pages], partly of enacting clauses [in sixteen pages], and, further, of schedules [p. 43-52, both inclusively], the third of which presents a scheme framed by a Master in Chancery, J. W. Farrer, Esq. for the future government of the School. It is material that these circumstances be kept in view, as they throw a strong light on the character of the Bill. A general and a sweeping clause of enactment in the body of it, was intended to give the intolerant, excluding provision, in the third schedule, the force of law! From at least the year 1824.
application for a legislative act. The Bill, which the Upper House entertained, almost to a third reading, was solicited-was treated as an estate bill-as a private bill.* Chiefly for that reason, it had its rise among the Lords Spiritual and Temporal: and, therefore, its authors looked forwards to its passing in the comparative secresy and silence with which almost every bill of the same general description receives the sanction of a British Parliament.
They were mistaken. Circumstances now to be related, became the occasion of this Free School Bill being matter of some notoriety, first in Birmingham, and, very soon afterwards, in other towns and districts of the kingdom.
It had been rumoured that a clause in the intended Bill, would provide for the future governors of the School being eligible exclusively from among members of the Established Church of England. For a number of years, it had been the practice to choose none from any other religious community. Henceforth (so said Report) the restriction was to be made imperative, by law, upon the electors; that is, upon the surviving governors. They who were to be the objects of the excluding clause, could with difficulty believe that any such measure was designed. When they considered that we live in Great Britain, and in the nineteenth century, and that the national test and corporation acts, together with certain other disabling and penal statutes, had been repealedwhen so much was recollected, even independently on any thing regarding the history and state of Birmingham -how could the dissenters imagine that there existed a serious thought of asking, at such a period, and in such circumstances, for a local test and corporation act?
The Bill was already in the House of Lords, when one of the governors happened to be in company with an individual dissenter of Birmingham, whose thoughts he directed in conversation, to the projected improvement of the buildings, &c. of the Free School; while he added, with a familiar, and somewhat playful air, "we have a
See what Blackstone says of Private Acts of Parliament.-Commentaries, &c. [ed. 15.] vol. i. 86. ii. 346.
In 1781, there appear to have been two Protestant dissenters among the governors of this Free School. Hutton's History of Birmingham , 208. One of these continued to be a governor until the time of his death, a few years since: the other vacated his office, by removal to a distance.
This was early in May, 1830 [before or about the 13th instant].
clause that renders you Non-conformists ineligible to the government of it:" and perceiving his companion to be startled at this intelligence, he went on to say, "it is, you know, a thing of course; the School being a royal foundation!" In such reasoning, the interlocutor in the dialogue could not acquiesce, but seriously replied, "No: I can by no means admit it to be a thing of course."
Here it is obvious to remark, that the argument of the governor, if argument it was designed to be, flew up in his own face. Municipal corporations, &c. are royal foundations: yet the corporation, like the test act, is repealed.
To pursue the narrative-the individual dissenter who had borne his part in this conversation, instantly disclosed the tenor of it to some of his immediate connexions. Measures were, accordingly, taken without delay, to ascertain the fact officially, and to provide for the abatement of the grievance.
Nor was any time to be lost. There remained but a very short interval before the day appointed for the Bill's passing through another of its stages. A general meeting of the dissenters of Birmingham could not be convened at a moment's notice. Some leading members of the several denominations of them, therefore, came together, and determined on remonstrating with the governors respectfully and firmly, and, in the event of their retaining the obnoxious clause, on framing measures of the most prompt, active, honourable, and effectual opposition. A deputation from the meeting was selected to wait on the bailiff* of the School. To this gentleman they presented a written remonstrance, setting forth the injustice and mischievous tendency of the clause, of which they complained. His answer was, that he must communicate with Lord Shaftesbury [chairman of the Lords' Committee], and that the governors could not take upon themselves to expunge from the Bill a clause which had been framed under the sanction of the Court of Chancery. On the same day, the bailiff of the School proceeded to London, whence he soon wrote to the chairman of the late meeting in Bir
* George Barker, Esq. This officer is chosen periodically from among the governors, and acts in their behalf. There are other public charities in the town of Birmingham, which have their several bailiffs; a word of local currency. Among the first twenty governors nominated in the Royal Founder's Charter, the second name which occurs is that of "Richard Smalbroke, now bailiff of the town aforesaid." The bailiffs "of the town" are manorial officers.
mingham, informing him, that, in Lord Shaftesbury's opinion, the clause could not now be withdrawn by the governors, but, together with the rest of the Bill, must be submitted to the House of Peers.*
Meanwhile, another deputation from the previous meeting of the dissenters had been appointed: a few gentlemen were requested, and kindly consented, to visit London without delay. A petition, signed necessarily by a small number of persons, was placed in their hands: they were empowered to engage counsel in opposition to the clause,+ and instructed to wait on those members of each House of Parliament, whose opinion, influence, and exertions, might be judged desirable for the full accomplishment of their object.
To these several noblemen and gentlemen they submitted a printed case, stating concisely the nature and ground of their complaint.
On Monday, May 24, a general meeting of the dissenters of Birmingham took place, for the purpose of declaring their sentiments on the clause in question, and petitioning the two Houses of Parliament for its removal. Not fewer than 1200 persons attended upon the occasion. The resolutions of this meeting were unanimous: and, within forty-eight hours, the petitions to the Lords and Commons received upwards of 6000 signatures. At the commencement of the proceedings of the day, the very singular position of the excluding clause was strongly insisted on and exposed.
Lord Calthorpe presented to the House of Peers, on Thursday, May 27th, the petition emanating from the public general meeting, and directed solely against the clause declaring the ineligibility of dissenters. But the governors had already consented to measures for withdrawing the offensive enactment, and to one or two further alterations, in respect of points that might interfere with the reasonable claims and feelings of the petitioners.
It is deserving of notice that the clause thus expunged
* No copy of this bill was sent to the dissenters in Birmingham, by the governors, until the very day that it was to be read a second time. +Accordingly the counsel retained were Thomas Denman, Esq. and Matthew Davenport Hill, Esq.
These alterations regarded, among other things, an enactment in the printed bill, p. 39, which virtually gave the governors a power to decide on the qualifications, &c. of "scholars to be received," and which, at least, might have operated to the exclusion of children of dissenters.
found not a single advocate among the Peers, whether Spiritual or Temporal. That the Bill was intended to have as ecclesiastical an aspect as possible, we cannot reasonably doubt: but such is not the aspect of the Charter.
Dissenters, of all denominations, in every part of the kingdom, have an interest in being made acquainted with these proceedings. In provincial districts, and even in metropolitan cities, men "dressed in a little, brief authority," may be prone to avail themselves of a certain kind of station and office, for the purpose of civil proscription.
Something like what has occurred in Birmingham, may occur elsewhere: and it will be instructive and encouraging to know, that from local intolerance an appeal can be successfully made to the wisdom, liberality, and justice of the British Legislature. For this purpose, however, the complainants must take their stand on ground common to them all. Concord, and promptness, and cordiality of opposition are strength. On the present occasion, attempts to sow jealousy and suspicion among the dissenters in Birmingham, and to prevent them from acting together as one man, and for a single object, were completely fruitless. N.
[In a future number some documents will be printed for the illustration, &c. of the foregoing statement].
The First Indian Church of America.
IN 1666, Mr. Eliot published" The Indian Grammar begun, or an essay to bring the Indian language into rules.' At the end of this work he says, "I have now finished what I shall do at present; and in a word or two to satisfy the prudent inquirer how I found out these new ways of grammar, which no other learned language (so far as I know) useth; I thus inform him. God first put into my heart a compassion over their poor souls, and a desire to teach them to know Christ, and to bring them into his kingdom. Then presently I found out (by God's wise providence) a pregnant-witted young man, who had been a servant in an English house, who pretty well understood his own language, and hath a clear pronunciation; him I made my interpreter. By his help I translated the commandments, the Lord's prayer, and many texts of scripture.