in the Bank of England, the East India, Russia, or South Sea Companies, or in any of the Insurance companies;-against the officers of many hospitals and other charitable institutions. Dissenters would be sometimes excluded from being vestrymen, and from managing almshouses. They would not be permitted, in some places, to govern workhouses, poorhouses, and houses of industry. They could not be keepers of madhouses or lazarettoes; and would be prohibited, in most cases, from acting as commissioners or trustees of anysort. It was doubted by the Court of King's Bench, when Lord Chief Justice Hall presided, whether the Censors of the College of Physicians were not obliged to take the test.All persons acting under royal charters are certainly obliged to do so. All non-commissioned officers, and the commissioned officers in the army, must receive the communion. All excisemen, customhouse officers, tidewaiters; all those who hold offices of inheritance. The Postmaster-general, the Lord Chancellor, the proprietors of mail coaches, all retailers of perfumery, venders of quack medicines, persons letting out post horses, are all persons holding places of trust under his Majesty, or those deriving authority from him, and must therefore all appear at the altar, before they enter upon their respective functions. Those who had licenses to sell ale were formerly compelled to receive the Sacrament, according to the Church of England; · as Mr Locke, in his Second Letter on Toleration, p. 360, informs us. No Dissenters can be governors of hospitals, assistod by act of Parliament; nor commissioners for window-taxes, nor maids of honour, nor the meanest officers in corporations; nor could the King confer a pension, nor any other reward, upon the most meritorious Protestant Dissenter, who scrupled to receive the Sacrament. *

But * All Scotclimen settled in England, and holding any offices there (a pretty numerous band), would be subjected to the penalties of these laws. A member of the Church of England has full and free access to all the offices of Scotland; while a member of the Church of Scotland is incapacitated from holding one in England. By the Act of Union, the two kingdoms are incorporated into one. There is to be one army, one navy, one parliament, and one privy council ; and yet the members of the Scotch Church--who are not Dissenters, but apportain to a church recognized and established by our laws, are cut off from all enjoyment of oilices in England. The different predicaments in which the two countries are placed, show, ludicrously enough, how little the state of any country is to be judged of from

its laws. The Scorch are prohibited, by the severest penalties, from : bearing offices in England; and the English permitted, with the most generous magnanimity, to share in all the wealth and patronage


But the execution of these laws is impossible, not only from their ridiculously extensive operation, but, from the enormity and atrocity of the punishments which they enact. He who offends against them is deprived of the right to sue in any court of law or equity. He cannot be guardian to any child, or administrator or executor to any person. He can neither take a legacy, nor deed of gift, nor bear any office in England, Wales, or Berwick upon Tweed. The pecuniary penalty for the offence is equally enormous.-L. 500 would be lhe price to an exciseman or corporal of the army for his transgression.-No lapse of time bars prosecution for this class of offences. A man may be prosecuted tomorrow for not receiving the sacrament forty years ago. How .is it possible to execute such laws as these? And what advantage can it be to the Church to continue a threat of enforcing laws which are so extravagantly and preposterously cruel, that every man of common sense must know they are extinguished for ever? Last year Lord Sidmouth made a slight scratch in the epidermis of the Dissenting Church. Of the extraordinary consequences, we were all witnesses; and yet there are persons who may think it possible to revive the execution of the Test Acts! If there are no such extravagant persons, why may not those laws be repealed ? And never let it be forgotten, against what species of men they have been enacted-against men who have run greater risks, and with greater unanimity, to preserve the L2

free of Scotland. It is curious to observe, how intrepidly the one nation exposes itself to danger, and how constantly the other abstains from advantage. A very favourite argument, in support of the Corporation and Test Acts, is, that their repeal would be contrary to that article of the Scotish Union, which enacts, that all acts existing at the period of thạt Union, for the establishment and preservation of the Church of England, its doctrines, worship, discipline, and government, are to remain in full force for ever. It is very wrong, in important subjects, to leave weak arguments unanswered; for it is impossible to conceive any too weak to produce an effect, in topics where many understandings' interfere. We have to observe, there, fore, that it is a folly to talk of the eternity of any human laws. If both nations wished one of the articles of Union to be altered, it ought to be altered. And as the power of altering it must exist somewhere, there is no other practical method of carrying such alteration into' effect, than by act of Parliament, as in any common case. And next, we wish to'observe, that the Corporation and Test Acts have nothing to do with the establishment, doctrine, wor. ship, and discipline of the Church of England ; and that, instead of contributing to the preservation of that Church, they add to the number, and inflame thé animosity of its enemies, and therefore regni der its destruction more probable;

free government and constitution of this country, than any other set of men whatever. During the reign of Charles II, the small remains of liberty were chiefly preserved and cherished by them. They resisted, with effect, the arbitrary designs of Charles and James II, when their own immediate interest would have led them to an unconditional submission. They joined cordially in the Revolution, and exposed themselves to the resentment of a bigotted princess and an infatuated people, to secure the succession of the House of Hanover. In two rebellions, the Dissenters, without the exception of a single individual, showed a steady. attachment to the present government; and they have, at all times and seasons, (and when such praise was by no means due to the Church of England), proved themselves the steady friends of that mild, moderate, and tolerant race of Kings, by which we have been governed for the last century.

The third monarch of that race is now declining into extreme old age, and oppressed by infirmities of mind and body, from which, unfortunately, there appears but little chance that he should ever escape. His successor, we sincerely believe to be in his heart a friend to every species of toleration, and of an understanding elevated far above any feelings of religious bigotry. It would be a great and a virtuous part in him, to lend his power to abolish these childish and unworthy remnants of English persecution. If he were steadily to pursue this high policy, the Church, delicately alive to the opinions of Royalty, would soon mitigate its opposition, and consent to strengthen its real interests; and the persecution which had been abolished, would in a few years be universally reprobated as cruel aud unjust. In the dangers that are coming to the world, all the men of this empire would be loyal ; and the author of such good would go down to posterity, not as one whom timid ecclesiastics could render as timid as themselves, but as a wise and magnanimous prince, who clearly saw the great interests of his people, and steadily pursued them.

ART. VII. Essai Politique sur le Royaume de la Nouvelle

Espagne. Par Alexandre de Humboldt ; les quatre derniers livraisons, en 4to; avec un Atlas Geographique et Physique,

en folio, Paris. 1809–10–11. SINCE the appearance of our former article on this valuable

and instructive work, a great, and, for the present at least, a lamentable revolution has taken place in the countries which it describes. Colonies, which were at that time the abode of peace and industry, have now become the seat of vio

lence lence and desolation. From one extremity of Spanish America to the other, the ancient bonds of subordination have been loosened. A civil war, attended with various success, but every where marked with cruelty and desolation, has divided the colonists, and armed them for their mutual destruction. Blood has been shed profusely in the field, and unmercifully on the scaffold. Flourishing countries, that were advancing rapidly in wealth and civilization, have suffered alike from the assertors of their liberties, and from the enemies of their independence. The revolutionists and the partisans of the mother country have been equally bloody in their vengeance, and equally regardless of justice and consistency, in exacting obedience to their decrees.

To what causes these calamities are to be attributed, and what effects are likely to result from them, are questions worth our consideration. Our information, with all the pains we have taken to increase it, is no doubt scanty and imperfect; but the subject merits all our attention. It is only by knowing the causes of these troubles, that we can judge whether there be any hope of appeasing them; and it is only by examining the consequences to which they lead, that we can know what to wish or to expect as to their termination. That a war with her colonies must be ruinous to Spain, is abundantly clear ; but that a voluntary separation from the mother country is best for America may not be equally certain. If a settlement could be made, which should relieve the colonies from oppression, redress their grievances, and secure them from becoming the victims either of domestic tyranny or of foreign usurpation, would it be any drawback from such an arrangement, that it extinguished the flames of civil war, and composed the dissensions that gave rise to it? If a peaceable accommodation, founded on priuciples of justice and moderation, could procure to the mother country the assistance of her colonies, in aid of her own exertions against France, would it not be preferable to the chance of war, uncertain in its issue, ruinous in its progress, and, even if successful, destructive of its object? With these views of the question before us, we shall begin with a short account of the disturbances which at present agitate and desolate America, and proceed afterwards to the more pleasing task of following Humboldt in his description of the wealth and prosperity of those countries, before they were visited with that calamity.

When the Central Junta promulgated the decrees in favour of the Spanish colonies, referred to in our former article, * they were aware, that a spirit of disaffection existed in America, and was fast increasing. They knew, by intercepted letters, that

L 3


[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

thought, by empting them withoyed in working

French agents were busily employed in working upon the colonists, and tempting them with offers of independence; and thought, by the equity and liberality of their concessions, to counteract these machinations of the enemy. But, unfortunately, they forgot, that empty declarations of abstract rights are not sufficient to allay discontents engendered by the sense of actual oppression. If there had been no alienation in the colonies, but that excited by the artifices of France, the decrees which they passed might have answered their purpose. But the çolonists sought relief from real grievances, and were not satisfied with the removal of speculative wrongs. Magnificent in promise, but poor in performance, the decrees of the Junta served only to raise expectations, and to infuse distrust. The colonies were told, that they had the same rights with the mother country ; but those who addressed them in that language, treated them as if they had none. At no time, not even under the Prince of the Peace, had they ever seen justice more corrupt, peculation more active, authority more insolent and despotic, rapacity and oppression more secure from punishment, than in the interval between the declaration of war against France, and the commencement of the troubles in America. *

It had been always one of their principal grievances, that they were excluded from offices of trust and emolument in their own country. Instead of removing this cause of discontent, the provisional governments of Spain sent out to them shoals of Europeans, ruined in their fortunes, and balked in their prospects, by the convulsions of the mother country, to find a recompense for their losses at home in places and emoluments in America, which the natives thought in justice due to themselves. Even the cessation of hostilities brought with it new causes of discontent. The war with England, which had lasted, with little intermission, for more than twelve years, had but slightly and partially affected the commercial prosperity of the colonies, and, latterly, not at all. Neutrals, sailing under double licenses from London and Madrid, had carried on their commerce'; and, where licenses could not be obtained, their necessities had been amply relieved by a contraband trade, which, in time of war, the Spanish government had not the power to check. The restoration of peace revived the commercial monopoly of the mother country in all its rigour, and nearly annihilated the trade of the colonies. Spain could not afford a market for their productions, or even supply them with vessels to convey their produce


* See debates of the Cortes on the 9th and 11th January 181);-and more especially the speeches of Lisperguer, Feliel, and Valcarcel

« ElőzőTovább »