« ElőzőTovább »
tion of the nation to restrain him. To such an extent, indeed, has this admitted right been abused in latter days, that every one among us is practically at liberty not only to worship God as he pleases, but to blaspheme His holy name, deny His existence, and take his own way to perdition, and publicly endeavour to persuade as many as he can to accompany him! But though any monstrous consequences may follow as the effect and punishment of such an abuse, they must be very inconsequential reasoners who would infer as a corollary from the admitted right, that all men, whatever religious tenets they may profess, should be equally eligible to all offices in the state.
"Care ought to be taken,' said Mr. Burke, 'that men do not, under colour of an abstract principle, deceive themselves. Abstract principles are what my clumsy apprehension cannot grasp I must have a principle embodied in some manner or other, and the conduct held upon it ascertained, before I can pretend to judge of its propriety and advantage in practice. But of all abstract principles, abstract principles of natural right are the most idle, because the most useless and the most dangerous to resort to. They would supersede society, and break asunder all those bonds which have formed the happiness of mankind for ages. I will venture to say, that if we go back to original abstract rights, there would be an end of all society!"
"The exclusion which is represented by the Emancipationists as contrary to abstract rights and natural justice, is consistent with the general system of society; something analogous to it appears everywhere in the affairs of common life. He who is not in possession of landed property to a certain yearly value, or in assured expectation of it by inheritance, is disqualified for a seat in the House of Commons. Persons who are educated and stationed in the lower grades of life, are disqualified for familiar intercourse with those whom fortune has placed far above them. The man who is below a certain standard in his stature, is disqualified for a grenadier, though he might be as brave as Tydeus. A Quaker is disqualified by his opinions for the army or navy, and for very many of the common offices and ways of life. The whole society of Bible Christians, who have published a New System of Vegetable Cookery,' adapted to their anti-carnivorous principles, are disqualified for the beef-steak club, and even for partaking of a parish feast. It may be an evil to be poor, a disadvantage to be diminutive, a misfortune to have inherited or imbibed sectarian tenets; but in the disqualifications which result from such an evil, such a disadvantage, such a misfortune, no hardship is felt, no injury is inflicted, no injustice is complained of. A Protestant is disqualified for the dignity of Vicar Apostolical, Bishop in partibus, Cardinal, or Pope. And
the Pope himself if he were Turkishly inclined, and wished to remove from the malaria of Rome to the delightful climate of Constantinople, could not exchange the tiara for the turban, and become Grande Mufti, unless he qualified as a Musselman. Every thing is subject to certain conditions; and the condition which the constitution requires from its legislators and its chief magis-, trates, is, that they should profess the Protestant faith. That faith is an essential part of the British constitution, and if men who are opposed to it covet and desire seats in the legislature, it is much more reasonable for us to require that they should change their opinions, than for them to demand that we should change the constitution of these kingdoms. In a Christian commonwealth,' (says Burke) the church and the state are one and the same thing, being different integral parts of the same whole."
says Mr. Kendal,
No man,' was ever yet in possession of civil rights under a constitution of civil government to which he refused his allegiance: and every man refusing the Protestant faith of this kingdom, refuses its constitution.""
When, in the year 1825, Sir Francis Burdett and Mr. Plunkett grounded one of their arguments for emancipation on the principle of natural right, Mr. Peel thus replied:-" Next, the honourable baronet, and my right honourable and learned friend rest this claim upon the ground of natural right. And here again I di
rectly join issue with them both. My right honourable and learned friend goes even so far as to argue, that we have no more right to exclude Roman Catholics from civil office, than we have to divest them of their property. He places the spoliation of property and the exclusion from civil office, on precisely the same footing, but he admits that both may be sacrificed to considerations of paramount necessity; but then that necessity must be clearly established. I cannot allow that the subjects of this country have any such claim as an abstract right, and I do not believe that the doctrine was avowed or maintained until comparatively recent times; I mean, until the year 1790. Let us look for a moment at the great periods in the history of the constitution. Previously to the Reformation there was unanimity in religious opinions: there was no dissent, and consequently no motive to exclude, and no reason for guards or checks; for it is to be observed, that these regulations now complained of, are not so much checks on the privileges of the subject, as guards that have been introduced from a reasonable jealousy.
"Now, what has been the practice of the constitution since the Reformation, when religious dissent first became important? I say, that the last three hundred years have afforded a practical contradiction of the doctrine laid down by the supporters of the claims of Roman Catholics. At the time of the Reformation, the oath of Su
premacy was administered; and from the reign. of Elizabeth up to the present moment, that oath has been enforced, and has operated to the exclusion of the Roman Catholics from office and from seats in this House. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, says that the law of exclusion had its origin only about an hundred and fifty years ago, but I deny the position; it had its origin with the first rise of dissent in matters of religion.
What, let me inquire, has been the doctrine maintained by the most celebrated public men on the subject of exclusion from civil offices. I have had occasion before to refer to opinions entitled to the highest respect, especially from those honourable members to whom I am particularly addressing myself. A conference was held respecting the bill for Occasional Conformity, and the lords who conducted it, had objected to a measure which subjected to the penalty of perpetual forfeiture of office those who were guilty of the crime of occasional conformity. At the conference they stated this important doctrine: The lords look on the fixing of the qualifications for places of trust to be a thing so entirely lodged within the legislature, that, without giving any reason for it, upon any apprehension of danger, however remote, every government may put such rules, restraints, or conditions on all who serve in any place of trust, as they shall see cause for; but penalties and punishments are of