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LETTER V.

Of the Defeat of the Dissenters in the House of Commons,

March, 2, 1799, and the Conduct of the Clergy in procuring it.

SINO

INCE I wrote the preceding letter, your clergy (for

it has been their measure and not yours, and in the pursuit of it they have consulted their enmity to the Diffenters rather than either their own reason, or your interest) have gained their point. After a full discussion of the quertion before the house of Commons a great majority appeared against the repeal. The clergy have had their triumph, and, no doubi, exult in our defeat; nor do we envy them. For we are not in the least discouraged. We know inankind too well to expect that, imposed upon as they have been so long, they will hear the plainest reasons the first, or the second time that they are presented to them, Assure yourselves that they will be presented again and again, a fourth, a fifth; and if necessary, a fiftieth timne, We shall give abundant exercise for the talent your clergy appear to have for invective, and many more inflammatory fermons, such as Mr. Madan's, will be preached and pub, lished. We also, while we are able to speak, shall preach, and while the press is open to us, we shall not fail to write, in our own defence; and after a few years more the nation at large must be stupid indeed, if they do not perfectly underNand the subject. And as we are more than ever confident that reason, justice, and sound policy are clearly on our side, we have no doubt but that the final decision will be in our favour. We all even ask more than we have hitherto done, and shall not be refused.

When we conlider how many more friends we have now, that all the influence of a popular king, and all the

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arts of an in Gidious minister are against us (no stone having been left unturned to defeat our application) than we had in the two last reigns, when the court was uniformly in our favour, we are convinced that liberal sentiments, favourable to our just claims, have gained much ground; and we are confident, from the encreasing liberality of the age (the progress of which all the clergymen in England can no more put a stop to, than they can prevent the sun, after he is risen, from ascending to his meridian altitude) will gain ground more and more. As to the clergy, we make ourselves perfeally easy about them. For should the court once more smile upon us (and courts you know are changeable things) should the minister of the day only give a fingle nod, their opposition will vanish as by a charm. It will be like throwing a few drops of Dr. Franklin's oil upon the waves, which will make their troubled waters as smooth as a looking glass. Mr. Madan may preach again from the same text to speak evil of no man, and to be gentle towards all men; but it will be a very different sermon from that which is now before you, and much more agreeable to the spirit of the apostle. The bishops of this reign would, in such a case, instantly become as liberal as those of the last; and as to the inferior clergy, they would wheel about as quickly as soldiers on a parade when the word of command is given in the presence of the king in St. James's park. Indeed, to be consistent with themselves, they must obey the higher power's whatever they are. For the powers that be are ordained of God, and therefore to resist the power, as Mr. Madan has been careful to remind you, is to refif the ordinance of God.

Should the king, like Ahasuerus in the book of Esther, vi. 1. not be able to sleep, and call upon one of the lords of his bedchamber to read to him out of the book of the records of the chronicles of the kings of England, and should there find who had been the most zealous for the revolution under king William, for the accession of the House of Hanover, and for the suppression of the rebellions in 1715 and 1745,

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and who took his part even in a late change of administration, and then inquire what honour and dignity (ch. vi. 6.) had been done to his friends, and the friends of his family, and learn that, instead of any thing having been done to reward, much had been done to mortify and punish them; that to this very day they had been persecuted by lies and calumnies, as men whose laws were diverse from those of all other people, and who do not keep the king's laws, and therefore say, that it is not for the king's profit te suffer them (ch. iii. 8.) poor despised Mordecai may be advanced, and some other use be made of the gallows that was crected for him.

In the mean time, we Diflenters are perfectly satisfied with the uprightness of our views, and the juftness of our cause, and shall patiently wait till the nation shall coolly reconsider the question; unless the clergy rising as (if they receive no check from above) they naturally will, in their violence against us, should, in order the better to secure the interest of their church, procure a law to banish (for they will hardly now think of burning) us all; and then, as some of them are now known to boast that they have no Diffenters in their parishes, they may join in one general Te Deum, that there are none in the nation; and that we are all driven to France or America, where they suppose we shall meet with spirits congenial to our own. If, in consequence of this, as the Diflenters have always been an industrious people, another Birmingham and another Manchester flould be established there, they will only rejoice the more, that all the taxes, and all the tithes, then perhaps doubled, will be paid chearfully by the genuine fors of the church, and that their pockets will be no more contaminated with the fees of Dissenters. Then will church and state congratulate each other, and be as sociable and happy as the tuo kings of Brentford, dreading no gunpowder, real or metaphorical.

With respet to your interest as a trading nation, and the several articles of your manufacture, what are they compared to the articles of religion? Any one of the thirty-nine is of more value than an hundred of those in your invoices. The

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church is even before the king, and the king, no doubt, before his subje&ts. Let the church therefore, that is, the clergy, be by all means gratified in the first place, the king in the next, and you, the people, keeping your proper order, in the last.

The zeal of your clergy for the church may belt be estimated by the facrifices they make to it; and I can shew you that, in order to prevent the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts, which they consider as necessary to the security of the church, they have sacrificed a thing of far more value to them than their temporal interest. For they have thought the cause so good, that it deserved to be promoted at the expence even of truth. You will also see, by the account which I Thall give you of their conduct, that mere zeal for the church is not the whole of their merit. They have thewn great ability in the management of their affairs, and are as fit for ministers of state, as for the service of the church.

Thinking it of some confcquence to their purpose, that some Diflenters, whose names are known to the public (ro that it might be imagined that their sentiments would be those of some considerable number at least of the body to which they belonged) should be represented as factious men, and enemies to government in church and state, they sent, too late to be discovered and counteracted, to every member of the House of Commcns, and to all the bishops, a printed paper (a copy of which I have in my hands) containing Extracts from the preface to my Letters to Mr. Burn, so disposed, and mutilated, as to give a very unfair view of my real principles and conduct ; and of this paper a most important use was made by Mr. Burke in the course of the debate, raising the indignation of the house against me, and the Diflenters in general, as being supposed to avow sentiments equally violent with myself.

I shall give the following paragraph as a specimen of the whole, that you may judge of their proceedings yourfelves. That which is printed in the Roman character is their

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extract, but what immediately follows in Italics, they omitted, evidently because it was not calculated to answer their purpose.

" Whether I be more pleased, or displeased, with their present violence, let them now judge. The greater their “violence, the greater is our confidence of final success.

Because it will excite more public discussion, which is all that is necessary for our purpose.Preface, p. 15.

Without the latter clause of this paragraph, which they artfully kept out of sight, it was natural to conclude, as the House no doubt did, that to the violence of the clergy, I was ready to oppose still greater violence, and not so inoffensive a thing as mere argument.

That my mode of promoting reformation, and of procuring redress of grievances, is of the most pacific nature, you may see in the following paragraph, which is part of a Note (p. 12) in the fame Preface, but which you will not wonder that they omitted to quote, because it would no more have answered their purpose, than the last clause of the preceding paragraph.

“ It has always been my opinion that Disfenters should “not accept of any civil offices for which the majority of “their countrymen have pronounced them disqualified, but “ patiently acquiesce in their exclusion from them, till it « shall please God, in the course of his providence, and by

means of our peaceable representations and remonstrances, " to open the eyes, and enlarge the minds, of our country“men, and thereby give them more just ideas of the natural

rights of men, and of the true interest of their country.”

This printed paper, thus artfully managed, served Mr. Burke as a text, from which he declaimed, in his eloquent manner, against myself, and all the Diffenters, just as Mr. Madan has done in his Sermon, with this difference, that Mr. Burke was imposed upon, and suspecting no fraud, kept to the text that was given him; whereas Mr. Madan soon lost sight of his. But what will Mr. Burke, and the rest of D4

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