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A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith
Letters 1807
Sydney Smith to Lord Holland, [June 1808]

Author's Preface
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Editor’s Preface
Letters 1801
Letters 1802
Letters 1803
Letters 1804
Letters 1805
Letters 1806
Letters 1807
Letters 1808
Letters 1809
Letters 1810
Letters 1811
Letters 1812
Letters 1813
Letters 1814
Letters 1815
Letters 1816
Letters 1817
Letters 1818
Letters 1819
Letters 1820
Letters 1821
Letters 1822
Letters 1823
Letters 1824
Letters 1825
Letters 1826
Letters 1827
Letters 1828
Letters 1829
Letters 1830
Letters 1831
Letters 1832
Letters 1833
Letters 1834
Letters 1835
Letters 1836
Letters 1837
Letters 1838
Letters 1839
Letters 1840
Letters 1841
Letters 1842
Letters 1843
Letters 1844
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The Curates Bill gives such power to the Bishops, that, if to that be added the power they already possess by the Bill of Residence, no clergyman who values his domestic comfort will ever think of differing from his bishop’s opinions in any publication, religious, political, or historical; thus a great mass of educated men are placed in utter subservience to those who are in utter subservience to the Crown.

The true remedy is, by taking care that proper peo-
ple are appointed to curacies. E. g. let the bishops, in livings above a certain value, have the power of rejecting any curate who has not taken a degree at some English University. The difficulty of procuring such curates would fix the price. The condition exacted would be the best guarantee that the parish was well taken care of. It is impossible by any law to prevent me from agreeing privately with my curate, when I appoint him, that (let the Bishop order what he will) he shall only accept a certain sum.

The law endeavours to prevent this, by saying such bargains shall not be binding; i. e. it aims to effect its object by making one man to act dishonourably towards another, when it is for the interest of the Church that they should both be on the best terms; and this very scoundrel who has thus broken his faith is the species of curate which Mr. Perceval contends is to be so honourable. How is his condition bettered by the Bill? If he be dishonourable, will he be a useful man to his parish?


That it comes from a school that you do not like should tamper with the Church of England; that whenever the revenues of the Church are seized upon, it will be under the very same plea upon which this Bill is founded;—i. e. that they belong to the State, and can be appropriated to any person or purpose which the State may think proper; and that the step is short from ecclesiastical to lay tithes.

I forgot to say, that it cannot be contended that this increase of salary is meant to act as a fine upon the non-resident rector; because you first pass a law
stating that such and such causes of absence are legal, and then you punish a man for doing what the law permits.

This law supposes that the rector is only desirous of putting in the cheapest curate he can get; whereas non-resident rectors are commonly very desirous of putting in people of respectability.

It is folly to speak of bettering the condition of the curate, as if it were a permanent state: it is merely a transitory state. The grub puts up with anything, because it means to be an aurelia. A footman is better than a curate, if to be a curate were the only object of any man; but a man says, “I shall succeed to some preferment hereafter. That is my reward; but, in the meantime, I shall take what I can get.”

Lastly, is it worth while for the Bishop of London to make alterations in the Church when the world has only sixty years to remain,—indeed, now only fifty-nine and a half?