Imatges de pÓgina
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in number, in any place or house not inhabited by a family, be adjudged a conventicle in law, though other prayers than those prescribed in the liturgy should be used at such meeting. Had his lordship been made sensible of this provision, he would, it is probable, have told us that it amounted to an express allowance to men in office to go to conventicles ; since their meeting in a company not exceeding nine in any noted conventicle in town or country would not amount to a forfeiture by this act. His lordship has not used this argument, and therefore I am not in his debt for an answer to it; but to prevent any ill use being made of this part of the act, I shall give a short account of it.

In the 13th and 14th Car. II. there passed an act, intituled • An Act for preventing mischiefs and dangers that may arise by certain persons called quakers and others refusing to take lawful oaths;' in which it is, among other things, enacted that if the persons commonly called quakers do assemble themselves under pretence of religious worship not authorised by the laws of the realm, the party offending being convicted shall forfeit for the first offence five pounds, for the second ten; for the third shall abjure the realm. But in this act it was provided that no person should be liable to prosecution for being at any meeting where the number of persons present did not amount to five; which limitation was to prevent unreasonable and malicious prosecutions, but could not be intended to give licence or encouragement to quaker's meetings, which the act restrained by very severe penalties. In an act of the 16th Car. II. and in another 22nd Car. II. each intituled, ' An Act to prevent and suppress seditious conventicles,' there is the same limitation; and therefore it is very absurd to suppose such limita- : tion to be meant or intended as an allowance of conventicles, when it appears in the acts made to prevent and suppress conventicles.

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From these acts the limitation was derived into the OCqueen kept to the old limitation of five; but when the act passed, it was considered that there were few gentlemen in England but had often more than five above their own family

in their houses; on which account the number was increased from five to ten, and the alteration was extended to both parts of the provision, as well that for meetings in houses not inhabited, as that for family meetings. This I take to be the truth of the case; and if his lordship can make any advantage of it, it is at his service,


DESIGN of the writer's letter. Jurisdiction of the University of Cambridge over its own members stated. Value of this privilege. Jealousy shown by the University against all attempts to hurt or impair it. Reply to one who denies that there is so much as the appearance of any statute for the power of degrading. Full account of the affair between Dr. Bentley and the University, which has occasioned the present letter. Concluding reflexions on the rude manner in which the Chancellor, as well as the Vice-chancellor, is treated by the doctor. Surprise expressed at the application which he is making to the king and council in this cause.





Cambridge, October 27, 1718.


In answer to your lordship’s request, I sit down to give you some account of Dr. Bentley's case, and the expectation of his bringing our vice-chancellor, or the university, or both, to answer for their proceedings before the higher powers. Your lordship observes with how much scurrility the vice-chancellor and heads of the university, and every member who voted against the doctor, are treated by the writer of the letters in the public prints; yet your lordship will be so far from expecting that I should return any such usage to the doctor or his friends, that I know you have too great a sense of decency and good manners to forgive me if I should.

The university of Cambridge (the case is the same at Oxford) has been possessed time out of mind of a jurisdiction over its own members, not only in points of discipline and correction, but in personal pleas; so that all matters of debt, and contracts, and bargains whatever, between scholar and scholar, or between scholar and any other person, arising within the limits of the university's jurisdiction, are determinable within the chancellor's court. This court has been confirmed and established by almost as many charters as we have had kings in England since the conquest ; but the last and the fullest was granted by Queen Elizabeth, and was followed by an act of parliament which confirmed and ratified the queen's charter, and all other charters granted by her royal progenitors, kings of England.

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This privilege has been ever highly valued among us, not only as such, but as necessary to the very being and preservation of the university ; for do but consider, my lord, what a case we should be in, if a tutor were liable to be called to the courts above, and to run through the forms of law, for every debt contracted by his pupils, or every difference arising among the scholars themselves, or among the scholars and people of the town. The reason of the case is so strong, that not only the universities, but, as I am informed, most corporations in England, have a right to hold pleas in personal contracts, &c. within themselves ; and that there is not a fair in the kingdom but has

; a court incident to it, to determine matters arising in it on the spot, to prevent the intolerable burden which otherwise would lie on the subject, if persons meeting together at a fair from distant parts of the kingdom, were to repair to the courts in Westminster-Hall to have their market bargains and differences heard and determined. I mention this to show your lordship that the privilege granted to the universities of holding courts within themselves, is not a thing so peculiar to us that it ought to be envied by our fellow subjects, as if it exempted us from common subjection to the laws of our country, but that it is a privilege common to us and other corporate bodies, and founded not in mere partiality to the universities, but on wise and solid reasons, and such as have obtained the like privilege for other bodies throughout the kingdom. When you reflect,

my lord, how necessary and indeed essential to our very being this privilege is, you will not be surprised to be told how very jealous the university has been in all times of all attempts to hurt or impair it. This jealousy runs through all our statutes from the most ancient times, and there are no severer punishments than those ordained against the impugners and violaters of the jurisdiction of the university, and the authority of her courts and judges. As the court itself is of a mixed nature, and has both civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction, so the punishments in this case provided are of both kinds. One of our oldest statutes, and which is still in force, expresses it thus : Si quis de universitate jurisdictionem cancellarii contemnens propriam vel alienam injuriam cum deliberatione vel ex intervallo vindicaverit, &c. si monitus ad arbitrium cancellarii vel

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