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Family Notices

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and agreed to by a majority of the ratepayers in vestry W;ls entirely overthrown, it will be necessary to recapitulate some of the leading points of the case, as reviewed and brought fortvard by the Lord Chief Justice himself, from which it will be found that although in the particular instance of Brainirt-e the rate is quashed, yet it was quashed only upon cut ittforinality of the Churchwardens in the mode of laying and exacting it, and not upon the broad merits of the right to lay and exact a rate against the role of the majority of ratepayers, if fleed were. This right has been now recognised, on the contrary, by the highest law tribunals of the empire, that is, by the Courts of Queen's Bench, Com.noil Pleas, and Exchequer. The facts are simply these. The church of Braintree standing in want of repairs, a vestry Was called and a rate proposed as usual for that Object by the Churchwardens, wlii h was refused by a majority of the parishioners on being carried to the vote. In this circumstance, and the qutfion of church repairs not admitting of Hindi longer postponement, the Churchwardens Undertook of themselves, and without summoning another meeting f«o lay and to ellforce tile rale. The parishioners, or some of them, continuing recusant, they were cited for contumacy before the Fcclesiaslic.il Court, from whence arose the application of the defendants to the Court of Queen's Bench for an inhibition to issue against further proceedings in that Court, and, as we have seen, a further appeal from the judgment of that Court to the conjoint Courts sitting in error. Such is briefly, a recapitulation of all such lead ng facts as are necessary to a fair under- lead fat- standing of the merits. Two questions naturally suggest themselves for solution to the public interested, as to the Court which had to decide. The first was as to the right of refusal of a Church Rate at all. The second, how, in what shape, and bv what process a rate may be made and enforced, if necessary. Oil the first bead Chief Justice TINDAL, is both intelligible and conclusive, as here may be seen:— "The learned Chief Justice having thus slated the general result of their lordships' deli- beration upon the case. proceeded to state that the actual parishioners of every parish were bound to repair the church, not by any particular I ecclesiastical injunction, but by the general common I law of the land, and that the liability to make I Such repair Yeas a duty which they could not I legally decline to perform. When the parisli- I loners, therefore, were assembled in vestry, I the only question upon which they could deli- I berate was—not whether they should repair the I church at all (for upon that point they were I concluded by the COIIIIIIIIII law of the land); I but how, when and in what manner their dllty I Was to be performed. They had no more power I to relieve themselves from the duty itself (iian I to refuse to contribute to the repair of bridges I and highways in which the public has a c-ottitijoii I interest, and which the law for that reason had I immeiiiorially decided that the public were I bound to repair." I This dictum is, we apprehend, sufficiently I clear and explicit upon the imperative obliea- I tion under which the parish lies to "repair the I church," which is not moreover an obligation I arising so much out of any particular eccle- I siastical injunction," but one imposed by the I getier;kl common law of :he lanll," which can I '10 more be slighted or evaded than the repair I of bridges and highways," for which the public I are rated, and can be summarily compelled to I contribute. This statement, as laid down by I the learned judge, will take a great many I people by surprise, for it has Leell a very I common opinion, and the misconception has I intentionally promoted by dishonest I political partizans, that the claim to Church I Kates was purely ecclesiastic in respect of obli- I gation no origin. I On the second head, the Chief Justice was no I less decided- He ruled that the Braintree Rate I \all illegal, because the Churchwardens had I laid it wilhout I;oing to a VC's'ry that is, they I they had laid it of their own will. lint if I tlif-v had only gone to a vestry, even although I tLe majority was against the rate, the rate so I likid by the minority would not have been the I legal, and compulsory upon the parish. I Such is the law as more than hinted by his I lordtlll;p, who did not more formally pronounce I it only because, as lid said, there was no case I before Itiiu. After showing that the Chiirch- I Wardens were not justified in making a rate I Subsequently to a vestry meeting, and not there I Hud then after refusal by such meeting, he I proceeds iuferentially and incidentally to point I out that the judgment would have been other- I wise had the rate been laid at a vestry meet- I itig, even if against the vote of a majority of such I vestry meeting. Tiiit )s,,ts the obligitioik to re- I Pair the church is contracted under the common I laiv of the land, the parish cannot, and ought I hot, to be able to escape the consequences by I ally coutumacious will of a majority. Hertl are I tlie words of the Chief Justice :— I "They could not, however, help observing I tlut there was a great and obvious difference I bttween the case of a rate made by the Church- I Hardens and minority of a vestry meeting convened I for the purpose, and the case of a rate made by the I Churchwardens without any meeting, alone, and at I a future time. Upon the validity of a rali> made ■ at a meeting by the Churchwardens and the I .illority the Court would say nothing at I present. They reserved to themselves, however, I the Cull right to deride that question, according I to the best of their judgment, whenever the ■ question should a:V-se such a question was not, I bowevfr, included in the matters to be decided I upon the present reco»d. It was true that the Chu)-chmarde)is winy be co)itl)i;lled to cause the ■ church to be repaired, and that they had the power I to compel the parishioners to make the necessary ■ rate fur lhe pllrpoie. It was also true that the ■ Ecclesiastical Court possessed exclusive ittris- I dictiots ti) inquire into the necessity of the rate, ■ and may eompellhe Churchwardens to make it I 411(1 the par.shioners to pay it, if legally made. I 'l'helle Courts, however, had of course no power I to enforce a rate which, being made like the Prt:seiit, without due authority, was illegal and ■ "oid in itself- This illegality being apparent ■ "Pou the face of the rate, the Court was unani- ■ "lously of opinion that the writ of proia. bi tioll I "lay well go to gtop the proceedings." As we shall, probably, have occasion to revert "Ottte subject we shall now conclude with citing h¡1I lordship's opinions on the powers possessed I by the Ecclesiastical Court, to enforce the rate \¡en made:— "But this was ikot so for all the powers of ■ \\it! spiritual court to compel the reparation of the Cufcb were left untouched by the presur ■ ^e< ision. That Court still possessed the power of compelling the churchwardens to make the ■ rate or cause it to be made, and of compelling the parishioners to pay it when made according Co lw. Such parties as refused to join in the rate or to pay i' may be compelled to do so by ecclesiastical censure, that is by excommunica- tion, which since the 53d George I U means imprisonment of !lie recusant pariies."