THE RITUALISTS AND THE LAW.
(TO THE EDITOR OF THE " SPROTATOR.1
Sna,—Permit me to correct one very important error in your article on "Ritualism in the City." You say there that the disputed usages, notably "radiant dresses" (by which, pro- bably, the Eucharistic vestments are intended), are matters to which "the sober ritual of the Church, as interpreted for the time by the best legal authorities, gives no sanction."
Now, the legal facts are these. From the time of the enact- ment of Elizabeth's Act of Uniformity, in 1559, till the Purchas Judgment, in 1871, the consensus of lawyers, canonists, anti- quaries, and even controversialists on both sides, until quite the other day, was that the vestments were undoubtedly legal, and the only question was, whether they could be made compulsory, in the face of long and tolerated non-user. In the Court of Arches, Sir John Dodson, Dr. Lushington, and Sir Robert Phillimore had all pronounced their legality. The Privy Council, in 1857, laid down that "the same dresses and utensils which were used under the First Book of Edward VI. may still be used." The Court then consisted of five lawyers, Lords Cranworth and Wensleydale, Mr. Pemberton Leigh, Justices Patteson and Menlo, and two prelates, Sumner and Tait, sitting as mere assessors. Subsequently, Sir F. Thesiger (afterwards Lord Chelmsford) gave as counsel an opinion in favour of the legality of vestments.
Then the English Church Union laid a case before nine counsel in 1866, who, differing on some points, were unanimous in favour of vestments. These nine counsel were Lord Chief Justice Bovill, Lord Chief Justice Coleridge, Lord Chief Baron Kelly, Lord President Hannen, Lord Justice James, Sir Robert Phillimore, Dr. Deane, Mr. Prideaux, Q.C., and Professor Cutler.
Now the Court which condemned the vestments in 1871, and thereby undertook to reverse the Privy Council judgment of 1857, consisted of only four members altogether. Two of these were Bishops, who sat as Judges, not as assessors, and whose opinion on the law of the question (even had they professed impartiality, instead of being notoriously pledged to one side, that of prosecu- tion) is obviously worthless. Of the two lay Judges, one, Lord Chelmsford, was that very Sir Frederick Thesiger who had given his opinion in favour of the vestments some years before ; and there remains only Lord Hatberley, of whom two facts are patent,—first, that he knows nothing whatever of ecclesiastical law, and can no more be expected to deal competently with it than a police-magistrate could with a complicated question of disputed title ; and next, that he is a violent religious partisan, incapable of dismissing his prejudices from his judgment, as he showed clearly enough in the Voysey case, where he laid down as principles of English Church law and doctrine opinions for which no trustworthy authority can be adduced. No wonder, then, that the late Sir John Taylor Coleridge publicly branded the Parches judgment as a grievous "miscarriage of justice." One bigoted lawyer and two partisan Bishops—one of whom, who has the credit of drafting the judgment, actually advised the Church Association how best to achieve its ends—are not exactly "the best legal authorities" producible in this matter. Moreover, as there are three directly false statements in the judgment itself ; two interpolations of the crucial word "only," to make it appear
that the Advertisements of 1564 and the Canons of 1603 require the surplice exclusively ; and an alteration of the date of Cosin's "Visitation Articles" from 1627 to 1687, fifteen years after eosin's death, to make it seem as though he put their Lordships' interpretation on a rubric of 1662,—something more than mere bad law is presumable.—I am, Sir, &c.,
RICHARD F. LITTLEDALR.
9 Red Lion Square, TV.C., Christmas Day.
[We were perfectly aware of the details of the legal situation, and all our correspondent shows is, that the judgment of 1871 was very likely bad, and may probably be reversed, when properly considered, by the new Court of Appeal. We quite agree with him there. In the meantime, the decision of 1871, as the latest decision of the highest Court, is binding, and should be observed till it is declared to be bad, if it should ever be so declared.—En. Spectator.]