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for sibility of What pre the tribe into a be a morrent oce se morbid to clubeing wroubound lie could allontal than sura
holders'--permitted to the magistrate; observing, (p. 10.) that while those words remain, bis Lordship's bill is, in the estimation of dissenters, ' a virtual repeal of the whole toleration system.' And he moreover remarks, that its requiring from a settled minister a testimonial from six of his congregation was nugatory, while a compliar:ce with the additional obligation imposed of stating to what sect or deno• mination the subscribers belonged, would be often inconvenient and difficult.
Now if such be the sentiments of this writer, relative to the operation of the bill : if in that form it must have entailed on it's head from every consistent protestant, disgrace and condemnation :' if it were a virtual repeal of the whole toleration system :' if, as in another part of the pamphlet he strangely expresses himself, it was bristled with so many singular, unnecessary and vexatious clauses and conditions that all the good qualities of the bill were buried under its novel and horrific aspect :' What colour of reason is there for considering the alarm' as unfounded? How could the sensibility of the dissenters on this occasion be regarded as morbid ? What pretence for applying to the exertions of the public to crush it, the trite quotation from Dr. Young, of the ocean's being wrought into a tempest "to waft a feather or to drown a Ay?' Could there be a more rational or serious object of consternation? Could any event occur in the political or religious world, more fatal than the repeal of the whole system of toleration? But with a surs prizing inconsistency in a subsequent page, (36,) he himself answers these questions by declaring that in the shape in which the bill appeared, it could not but create universal alarm.'
Having relieved his conscience by specifying what appears to him to be the objectionable clauses iù Lord Sidmouth's bill, our author proceeds to a more gratifying part of the subject, viz. to state those points in which the bill explains and extends the existing toleration.'
On this head he mentions, that the act of W. & M. has been construed not to be imperative upon the magistrate in regard to the administering of the oath to ministers; for that by the first clause of the act, wbich is passed for the protection of all who attend divine worship in dissenting meeting houses and chapels, the magistrate is required to tender and administer ihe oathis prescribed, and thereof to keep a register: while in the seventh clause of the act, which reiates to ministers only, the court, in which the oaths are to be taken, is thereby empowered to administer
the same : A variation of the phrase, he observes, which has given a handle to some magistrates to construe the act as conferring on them a discretionary authority to register those ministers only, whom they think worthy of a licence. And he exults that Lord Sidmouth's bill puts an end to that uncertainty, by making the act imperative on the magistrate in all cases in which the applicant complied with the proposed conditions. He also points out, as a considerable enlargeinent of the legal limits of the existing toleration, intended by Lord Sidinouth, that the relief afforded by the stat. 19 Geo III. to ministers being preachers or teachers of congre. gations, was, by the bill, extended to those who refuse to sign the articles, and who are not ministers of congregations. On those provisions in the bill he is sufficiently liberal of his encomiums; and expressly states, p. 16, that it would have been, upon the balance, a very considerable extension of religious libery.'
Now nothing we conceive but a zeal to pay compliments to the noble lord, could have induced the author thus to express himself. As to the first ground of encomium, it is to be recollected, that the narrow construction of the statute of W. & M. is founded on a wretched quirk, which it is scarcely possible could have been adopted in any court, unless by the most bigotted ignorance, after dinner ; and has of course been always discountenanced by the Court of King's Bench. We really cannot perceive that the dissenters are bound by any very strong ties of gratitude to Lord Sidmoub for exploding what was before exploded,—for thus slaying the slain : though certainly, there could be no objection to expressing the law in terms which would preclude this miserable cavil. With regard, again, to the second benefit resulting from the bill, it is not to be forgotten that it is merely a correction of a slip in the framing of the stat. 19 Geo. III. It is supplying an omission which was the effect of accident,--the legislature having passed that act, in the form desired by the dissenters and their friends.
From the mode in which the subject is treated in this letter, the reader would naturally be led to imagine, that it was the primary object of the noble ford to enlarge the boundaries of religious liberty; and that the restrictions, imposed by the bill, were only incidental to that great object. In this spirit the writer proceeds very pompously, in the language of an act of parliament, to propose a correction or modification of the bill, as he styles it, to the main principle of which, however, it is altogether repugnant. For this modification, as it is called, after stripping it of the lumber of legal phraseology is merely, 1st. that every preacher of a congregation duly registered shall be exempt from penalties, and, on subscribing the articles required by the stat. of W. & M., or the declaration prescribed by stat. 19 Geo. III. shall be entitled to privileges and immunities ; 2nd. that the act shall not affect the pro• visions of the law, relative to the militia : 3rd. that every minister, though not settled, shall, on taking the oaths, and signing the declaration required by stạt. 19 Geo. III. be exempt from penalties,--an exemption which it is suggested should extend also to the Socinians. : 4th. that the act shall be imperative on the magistrate.
• These my Lord, (Mr. B. continues,) intolerant as your Lordship is reputed to be, are mostly the suggestions of your own liberal and enlightened mind; and upon this ground you justly conceived yourself as entitled to some acknowledgements from the dissenters as having proposed materially to extend the limits of legal protection.'
But can there be a greater misrepresentation than this of the views and intention of Lord Sidmouth, in preparing the bill? Was it not his principal if not sole object, however well meant, yet doubtless extremely erroneous, to create those restrictions which this writer himself admits would have endangered the very vitals of religious freedom? Can it be doubted for a moment, that these corrections were never considered as of the essence of the proposed measures, but were adopted to render more palatable the regulations which were of a tendency so alarming? And what do these boasted corrections amount to ? In respect to the first, the law is already to the same effect as the bill in that particular expressed it, and is sufficiently clear to all but the most stupidly bigotted ;-and the second is merely a correction of an evident oversight. That we are accurate in our conception of Lord Sidmouth's intention is, in in a subsequent passage of the letter, (p. 39,) conceded in effect by the author himself, where he states, that he is uncertain whether, compatible with his Lordship's views, the bill could have been rendered acceptable to the dissenters, as he knows not whether his Lordship was quite prepared either to continue legal protection to ignorant and illiterate teachers, or to give up those certificates which dissenting ministers would universally regard as needless, vexatious, and even hazardous. Nothing therefore can be more disingenuous, than to represent that as a modification of a Bill, by which
its very essence is utterly destroyed, and its main if not only object defeated?
The truth is, that the writer seems juflated with the interview he had with the noble lord. He is perfectly in raptures when he declares, (p, 38,) that he shall never forget the explicitness and candour with which his Lordship on that occasion represented his own views, nor the attention and patience with which his Lordship listened to every objection which was urged, and to every alteration which was suggested. For how otherwise can the singular paragraph be accounted for with which this letter concludes ? It runs thus:
. This most desirable measure, the repeal of the penal statutes relating to religion, will therefore sooner or later, be brought forward by the enlightened friends of religious liberty. And in that day, my Lord, we hope that your Lordship will have too much magnanimity and real goodness of heart to retaliate our errors and our faults upon ourselves. We have placed ourselves in your Lordship's power. We know how easy it would be for your Lordship and your friends, the supporters of the present Bill, when any measure is brought forward for the extension of religious freedom as the repeal of penal laws, to take ample vengeance by raising a clamour against us, which shall spread like wildfire through the country, and shall effettually check any beneficent intentions of the legislature in our favour. And when the hue and cry is once raised, whatever be the watch word, whether it be “Great is Diana,” or “ No Popery,” or “ the Church is in danger,” or “ Toleration is threatened,” the whirlwind will have its course, and the still small voice of reason and truth will be stifled in the storm. Whenever, therefore, my Lord, the auspicious period shall arrive, which shall be judged favourable to the renewal of an application for the extension of our religious liberties, permit us to hope that your Lordship forgetting the feeling excited by the present momentary misconstruction of your Lordship's designs and motives, will demonstrate the excellence of your principles, and your disinterested attachment to justice, liberty, and the rights of conscience, by giving them your ready and ardent support, even in behalf of those to whom your Lordship may not consider yourself as under any peculiar obligation, and of whom your Lordship may conceive that you have just reason to complain. Virtue is never more illustrious, or more dignified, than when it is practised for its own sake.
Now what were the errors and faults which the dissenters committed, of the retaliation of which, from his Lordship, there is such mighty danger ? Were they censurable for being alarmed at the novel and horrific aspect of the bill ?' Were they to blame for opposing the virtual repeal of the whole system of toleration? With what shadow of right could Lord Sidmouth, if he had the power, exercise any vengeance on the dissenters on a future
occasion for their conduct on the present ? What storm is. he capable of raising? If all this incense is offered from fear, what makes Lord Sidmouth so formidable ? Certainly not his talents for legislation, after having signalized himself by proposing a measure which set the whole country in a fame, to be extinguished only by the immediate rejection of his rash and inconsiderate project.
The importance of the subject most alone plead our excuse for having bestowed so much notice on this very unnecessary pamphlet. In point of style it is at once vulgar and obscure. The following are a few of the ornaments, of the composition.
•The case which your Lordship stated of an ignorant booby who can neither write nor read.'- Nothing can be more intolerable than that an impudent fellow should obtain civil immunities.' - After having tried his gifts till he is tired, honest John will return in peace to his bodkin or his awl.'— It must be no inconsiderable annoyance to the regular clergy that strangers should intrude in their parishes, beat up their quarters, and cap:ivate their hearers.' &c.
Nothing, however, is more prominent in this publication, than its excessive vanity and arlulation. Any one who happens to recollect that it is a letter addressed to Lord Sidmouth, cannot help feeling a good deal surprised at the immense pains taken into bring certain facts and circumstances to his Lordship's memory; and will not fail to be reminded of an inexcusable habit which some persons have acquired, of afflicting a single individual with excessive loudness of speech, for the purpose of conveying information to all quarters of the room. The reverend writer, indeed, seems more dazzled by men of distinction than is quitedecorous in a minister of the gospel. Stupet in titulis. He is particularly careful to inform us, forinstance, of his having (requested and obtained an order of admission into the House of Peers' from Lord Holland, whose enlarged views of toleration, and eloquent and animated defence of it, could not be sufficiently admired :'--and his account of the proceedings on that memorable occasion is exactly in the style and manner of an orator in the streets describing the beauties of his raree show to a group of gaping children. Lord Erskine, 10 doubt, must be infinitely flattered to find that he was instrumental in confirming Mr. Belsham's opinion, by his luminous and eloquent speech replete as usual with legal information.' Lord Sidmouth's speech, too, upon introducing the bill, was 'eloquent,' and his reply animated :' and the speech of his Grace the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, delivered by his Grace on the late