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Here we find the mayor, and the capital burgess, for one year after his departure from the office of mayor, and the recorder, to be justices of the peace, within the limits of the town and parish ; with power to commit delinquents, if they refuse to find sureties ; to enquire of all misdemeanors, &c. as the justices of the county ; which said justices of the county, are excluded from executing or doing any thing, within the town and parish of Tiverton, which the justices of the town and parish can, or ought, to do and execute. This one exception, however, is made; “nothing is intended in this clause, to extend to exclude the said justices of the county, from determining and proceeding in all such things and matters, touching the revenues."
This division refers to the administration of oaths to the corporate officers nominated in the charter. Mr. Thorne, the mayor, before commissioners appointed. Mr. Oliver Peard, the justice, and John Webber, the recorder, before the mayor ; and every other mayor to administer to his successor, and the other justices, such oaths as aforesaid.
We have here the grant to the mayor and burgesses, or to those, who under this name were incorporated, namely the inhabitant householders, that it may be lawful for the mayor, recorder, , and justice, or any two of them, (of whom the mayor is to be one) to hold and keep a general sessions of the peace, for offences within the parish, as the justices of the county do; but not to proceed to the determination of any petty treasons, felony, or other offences whatsoever, touching the loss of life or member, without special licence; and that they, the said mayor, recorder, and justice, or any two of them, (of whom the mayor must be one) shall have power to commit to the county gaol, those who shall be taken for treasons, murders, felonies, &c. there to remain to be sued before the justices of gaol delivery; and it commands the gaoler, or sheriff of Devon, to keep them safely. The consideration of this clause leads me to remark, that the value of goods, &c. stolen, should in the indictments preferred at our sessions, be of an amount so as to constitute the crime, petty larceny. The justices should not proceed to try any felonies, upon conviction of which the prisoner must pray the benefit of the clergy, or now, the benefit of the statute ; for before the 5 Ann, c. 6. sentence of death in all cases must have been passed on those who could not read. It may still be doubted, whether it must not be passed upon a convict, who obstinately refuses to pray the benefit of that statute. I have thought it proper to suggest this hint, which can prove of no inconvenience if adopted, and the neglect of which may, at some future period, prove a source of no trifling difficulty. It is well known, that persons convicted of bigamies, manslaughter, and simple grand larcenies, &c. are still asked, what they have to say, why judgment of death should not be pronounced upon them ? and they are told to kneel down and pray the benefit of the statute !
The privilege of having a gaol within the town and parish, is here granted to those whom the charter incorporates ; and it further orders that the mayor for the time being, shall be the keeper. Although at a risk of incurring the displeasure of several of our corporate officers, I shall, and I feel it to be my duty, both as a christian, and an inhabitant householder within the town, and as a well-wisher to the welfare and quietness of our parish, take upon me to write fully on a subject, which by those who value the interests of religion, nay common decency, must be esteemed of the very highest importance. The only remark I shall make upon the gaol under the town-ball, appropriated to debtors, many of the inhabitants of which may have been driven there through the dishonesty of others, though even were it solely for the reception of the idle and extravagant, nay for the swindling knave, I hesitate not to say, is a disgrace to the mayor and burgesses of the town and parish of Tiverton.
Let us now proceed to the bridewell, a neat and commodious building, and as far as Mr. Facey, the deputy keeper, or rather the mayor's assistant, is concerned, as to cleanliness, &c. fault can possibly be found.
It were certainly to be expected, that with such spiritual assistance as the four reverend common council-men should be at all times ready to afford
-“remember them that are in bonds as bound with them”—whose duty indeed it has already been shewn, is to be from time to time, aiding and assisting the mayor, for the time being, in all thing's appertaining to the well regulating of the town and parish, every facility would be given towards affording a due religious instruction and improvement to those unhappy beings, who from their misconduct, or it may be their ignorance, have been led to infringe the laws of their country.
Reader, I beg you to remember, the mayor, for the time being, is by charter, the keeper of the prisons within the town and parish. (m) Now let us see, what is the true state of these unhappy criminals and sufferers in this res ct. Why for the last seven years, I confine it to my residence within the parish, a clergyman has never been seen within these dreary receptacles of vice and wretchedness, to afford the smallest consolation or instruction, as regards spiritual subjects, so intimately as such subjects are connected with the eternal welfare of their deluded inhabitants. Are such places to be called houses of correction ? But I will anticipate the way, perhaps, in which this, (what shall I call it) gross neglect, nay this
(m) Surely this part of our mayor's office must strike every true churchman, as being most decidedly incompatible with the clerical character, and at complete variance with the constitution of our excellent church, as connected with the ordering of her ministers. Ambassador of Christ-Messenger of the Most High-A successor of the Apostles- A Prison Keeper!!
Again, would the following read more congenial to a christian ear? The reverend rector of a living in Somer. setshire, or Gloucestershire-A Keeper of the Prisons in Tiverton, Devonshire! Would it not be an insult to the weakest capacity, to urge a single argument to prove, that such an employment is a sad degradation of the holy calling ?
I have witnessed many a sneer, many a sarcastic observation, levelled at a dissenting minister, burdened with a large family, for exercising the trade of a grocer, &o. But is this to be compared with the superintendance of a prison ! - The hard labour !-- The whipping !!!