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Of the small properties held subject to charitable trusts : all not exceeding one hundred pounds per annum, are to be subjected to the summary jurisdiction of a body of commissioners. The Lord Chancellor is to appoint three commissioners (Sec. 1), and two inspectors (Sec. 4), and the commissioners are to appoint a secretary, clerks, messengers, and other officers (Sec. 6). The whole of these officials are to have ample salaries allowed them (Sec. 9), and provision is made for the salaries by creating a "charity administration fund” (Sec. 54), towards which, each small charity is to contribute yearly threepence in the pound of its annual net revenue, all other charities whatever being made to pay for the same a penny-halfpenny in the pound, not exceeding, in any case, 1001. Of the 40,000 charities (yielding an aggregate income of 1,200,0001.) which are to pay the threepence, 7,000 are of 51. and under ; of these 6,000 are of 31. and under, and 3,500 vary from 1s. to 20s. The threepence per pound, and three-halfpence per pound, are not the only portion of these funds to be withdrawn from their legitimate application. The fifty-sixth clause of the Bill compels every charity to deposit at its own expense, or the trustees, or persons holding the property charged with the payments, attested copies of all new title-deeds in the commissioners' office, and, if required, copies of all previous conveyances. The expense of complying with this requirement will swallow up, in not a few instances, several years' income of the charity. This costly commission is empowered to make orders on trustees and others for the payment of any money in their hands, or for the future administration of the estate, and to establish (with the written consent of the special visitors, if any) such schemes for the application of the revenues of any charities as shall to them seem fit, where the fund cannot be applied as directed by the donor. “Every such order shall be final and conclusive, and not subject to any review, unless the commissioners shall think fit to re-hear the same.”
On the powers intended to be conferred by this Bill, a recent number of the “ Edinburgh Review” contains the following remarks :-" Without doubt these are very extensive powers ; they are such as no English court, indeed, such as no English sovereign has ever possessed. The Bill is a step in centralization, as much in advance of the Poor-law Amendment Act, as that Act was in advance of all that had
before. That Act created about sixteen thousand guardians ; but it carefully excluded the commissioners from any share in their nomination. The charity commissioners are themselves to nominate. They will, probably, appoint several hundred trustees every year. In the course of a few years all the trustees of charities under one hundred pounds, a-year, and of the municipal charities, will be their nominees. And, whether appointed by them or not, the whole body will be under their control. They may harass them by inquiries, annoy them by regulations, censure them by their reports; or, on the other hand, assist them in their prospective arrangements, and sanction their past conduct.”-- Edinburgh Review, April, 1846, No. 168, p. 480.
Invested with these despotic powers,—with the whole body of trustees thus appointed by the commissioners, or under their control,—the provisions of the nineteenth section of the Bill, cannot but be regarded as most dangerous. That section provides : " And be it enacted, that in every case within the summary jurisdiction of the commissioners, limited as aforesaid, in which it shall appear to the commissioners that property given on or subject to any charitable trust cannot be applied to the purposes directed by and according to the intention of the donor thereof, it shall be lawful for the commissioners, upon the application of the trustees or the major part of them, and with the consent of the visitor or visitors, in cases where there is a special visitor or visitors of the charity, to be signified in writing under his, her, or their hand or hands, by order under their seal to settle or approve a scheme for the application of such property to any charitable purposes as the commissioners shall think fit: provided always, that in the case of any charity for the purpose of education in connexion with the United Church of England and Ireland, if there be not any special visitor, the consent of the bishop of the diocese shall be required in order to the validity of such new scheme, in like manner as though he were a special visitor appointed in the instrument of foundation."
“A friend to the principle of this Bill has informed us, and in good time, what is the intent and object of this clause giving power to the Commissioners to direct, settle, and approve of new schemes for the application of charity property where “it may appear to them” that the will of the donor cannot be duly carried out. "There may be,' he says, 'the case of a grammar-school, in which the donor willed that ten boys should be taught Latin. Now, the funds from which ten boys are taught Latin would suffice to teach 200 English. What is the meaning of this insidious sentence? Why, that all our grammar schools are to be turned into pauper-workhouse schools : that the class for whom these establishments were founded, and to whom they were intended to be useful, are to be deprived of the benefits designed for them.”* Nay, more than this, it will greatly aid the advance of Popery. The Roman Catholics tell us that they look forward to entire ascendancy. For this they labour most perseveringly; and on the attainment of this they are resolutely bent. Their intrigues in the Cabinet, their intimidation in Ireland, are all directed to this end ; and this Bill supplies the machinery by which hey can more effectively work out their design.
* Address to the Lords Sp'ritual and Temporal.
When, then, the commissioners have settled a scheme for the application of funds to a different purpose than contemplated by the donor, the Bill, by a most extraordinary provision, and a singular misapplication of words, enacts (Sec. 42), That “all trustees who shall refuse or neglect to obey the directions of this Act, or the directions of the commissioners lawfully given under the provisions of this Act, shall be deemed guilty of a breach of trust, and shall be subject to removal on application to the Court of Chancery by petition in a summary way; and all the costs of such petition shall be paid by the trustees so offending or otherwise, as the said Court of Chancery shall direct.”
The Review further proceeds :-" To defend such extraordinary powers, it must be shewn, first, that they are necessary, or, at least, clearly and undeniably expedient; and secondly, that the commissioners to whom they are to be confided, are likely to be properly selected, and when selected, properly controlled.”
The qualifications required by the Act are (Sec. 2), that the commissioner be either a person “holding the office of vicechancellor, or master in ordinary of the High Court of Chancery, or a person who shall have held either of such offices, or the office of chief justice of the supreme court of judicature in Bengal, or a sergeant or barrister-at-law in actual practice, and of not less than twelve years' standing at the bar.”
“ If one thing more than another can add to the absurdity, and heighten the iniquity of this proceeding, it is a consideration of the position of the parties who are to carry this scheme into effect. It is currently reported, that of the gentlemen to be dignified by commissionerships under this Act, one is a Roman Catholic, another a Churchman, and a third a Unitarian. Any two may be a quorum for the purposes of summary jurisdiction over these scholastic establishments. Thus, Church of England schools may be regulated by a Papist and a Socinian; Roman Catholic schools by a Socinian and a heretic; Dissenting schools by a Churchman and a Papist; Unitarian schools by a Papist and a Trinitarian! Here is confusion worse, confounded, with a vengeance. Pass this Bill, and there is not an educational foundation in England, great or small, or of whatever religious denomination, which will be safe from the meddling and innovation of men who have neither sympathy nor respect for the principles therein inculcated!” *
The inquisitorial nature of the Bill deserves especial notice. All or most of the great companies, the religious and charitable societies, are perfectly willing to have their accounts examined ; and, with regard to many of them, the accounts are not only annually audited, but published and circulated amongst the members and subscribers, who thus know how their funds are disposed
Address t, the Lords Spiritual an 1 Tempora', p. 30.
of, and possess a controlling power over the administration of them, so as to prevent or remedy any perversion,
But the powers conferred by this Bill are vexatious, tyrannical, uncalled-for. The power to two or three commissioners or inspectors to examine all accounts, to appoint the way in which they shall be kept, to displace trustees and appoint others in their room, to examine witnesses upon oath, to impose fine and imprisonment for disobedience, to require the register and copies of all deeds or documents affecting the charities, and to tax each charity to the amount of three-halfpence or threepence in the pound, or 1001. per year,* is such a novelty in our legislation, such a forced interference with voluntary societies, that we are absolutely without being able to find a precedent for it in the proceedings of our ancestors, and trust our senators will not, by adopting the measure, supply such a precedent to posterity.
On the subject of depositing copies of all deeds, the master, wardens, and court of assistants of the Merchant 'Tailors' Company, thus express themselves in their Petition to the House of Lords, praying that the Bill may not pass into law, or that the Company may be exempted from the operation of it, and may be permitted to appear by counsel at the bar of their Lordships House.
“ Your petitioners further humbly state, that the obligation to deposit in the office of the commissioners attested copies or abstracts of all conveyances and assurances, by which any property subject to any charitable trusts shall be affected, together with the power given to the commissioners to require the registration or deposit of copies of muniments of title, and the provisions for giving the public access thereto, would by reason of a large portion of the corporate property of the company being charged with the payment of small annual sums to charities, impose a great tax on your petitioners, and also an unnecessary exposure of their private affairs.”
It is said that the expense of copying all the deeds relating to the various properties belonging to Christ's Hospital would alone be 3,0001. The whole of these deeds would be open to the inspection of any one, on paying one shilling, and the charity might be involved in a variety of expensive litigation by any person malevolently inclined.
“It cannot be said that any of their general powers, those which we have designated as No. 1, are absolutely necessary, and we are inclined to doubt whether all of them are expedient. The two first powers, those to authorize the selling, mortgaging,
* Indeed it may be a question how far each local association is not å distinct society for the purposes of this Act; and whether, therefore, instead of taking 1001. from the London Society, they may not take threepence in the pound also from every missionary society in every town and village of England and Wales.
exchanging, and leasing all charity lands, and the compromise of all suits, might unquestionably, in the hands of corrupt or merely careless commissioners, be the means of nearly unlimited jobbing. Under the first, they may authorize almost any use whatever to be made of the Charity property. It may be thrown into a park, or removed out of sight, or converted into money, or let to a friend; and, as every transaction which they sanction is to be valid at law and in equity, there will be no means of correcting their errors. Under the second power they may screen any amount of fraud or misconduct. They are empowered to put a final bar to all actions or claims on the part of a Charity. We do not say that these powers ought not, in the present state of public morality, to be given, but we venture to affirm, that if such powers had been granted a hundred years ago, or, perhaps, fifty years ago, very little land would now be in the hands of charity.”—Edinburgh Review.
But it is not against the power of thus dealing with the property of charities, the total value of which is estimated by the Review now quoted at from seventy-five millions to one hundred millions, that we chiefly protest; but we object to the annoyance to the personal feelings, the danger to personal reputation and liberty, involved in the spirit and provisions of
this Bill. There is no country gentleman, no landed proprietor, having any charge upon his property for charitable purposes, who may not be called upon to have his title deeds inspected, and to deposit copies or abstracts of certain portions of them with the commissioners.
Trustees, and other persons administering the charity, may be cited to appear before them, and compelled to travel any distance at their own expense, whilst other persons may be required to travel, at their own expense, any distance not exceeding ten miles, as often as the commissioners may like to require, and any one of the commissioners, or any one of the inspectors, may examine upon oath or affirmation (Sec. 25) any person whom they are empowered to call before them to be examined; whilst any persons refusing to appear, or to be examined when they do appear, are liable to removal, on application to a Court of Chancery by petition, in a summary way, the costs to be paid by them (Sec. 41), or to the payment of any such fine, to be enforced by attachment, as the Court of Queen's Bench or Exchequer may, on the application of the commissioners, decide (Sec. 40).
To summary convictions, except in cases of contempt, the common law is a stranger; and though, in several cases, a power of summary conviction has been given by various Acts of Parliament, Sir W. Blackstone observed in his time that such power had of late been so far extended as to threaten the disuse of the ever admirable and truly English trial by jury, and that the