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wanted to make the priests of Ireland as useless for all practical purposes as the paid priests of their own establishment, they should not give them 26,000l. merely, but as much as they could persuade that house to agree to. Ireland was suffering from the existence of two churches. Either one should be abolished or the other established; for with the present church having a small community, overpaid ministers, a costly establishment, and little work, it was quite impossible to have peace and content in that country. If possible give the catholic priests a portion of the public funds, as the government gave the regium donum to the presbyterians of the north, and they would unite with the church as the presbyterians did, against any attempt to overturn the old system of church and state alliance in that country. The experience of state churches was not of a character to warrant the house in going further in that direction.’
It will now be for the dissenters of Great Britain to take it into their solemn consideration whether they are not bound by attachment to their principles, by fealty to the religious convictions which they cherish, to exercise their elective franchise with especial reference to the preservation of religious freedom. The termination of the debate was as we expected, though the majority was undoubtedly greater. The second reading was carried, after six mights’ discussion, by a majority of 323 to 176. On an analysis of the division, it is found, that the majority consisted of 165 liberals, and 158 conservatives: whilst in the minority there were 145 conservative, and only 81 liberal members. Amongst the conservative majority, were thirty placemen, so that had the question been left to the decision of the unplaced conservative party, it would undoubtedly have been rejected.
Such is the parliamentary position of the question. Let us now turn to the country, and see what has been the extent and character of the opposition offered to it. Of the former, it is sufficient to say, that the number of petitions presented up to the latest return we have seen, is 5,643. Considering the brief interval allowed, this is altogether unexampled, and should, of itself, have sufficed to make the House pause in its career. We can understand Sir Robert Peel, and his conservative supporters, in their contemptuous indifference to the petitions of the people: but what shall we say of the liberal members of the House, of the radicals as well as the whigs, the free-traders as well as the monopolists, the men who live by popular support, whose political status is founded on the representative principle, and who can descant with fluency when it serves their purpose, on the agreement which should subsist between the votes of St. Stephen's and the petitions of the people. There were honourable exceptions, amongst which, the members for Durham, Rochdale, Finsbury, Ashton, and Birmingham, hold a distinguished place,—but, taken in the mass, the liberal party has forfeited its title to public confidence, and proclaimed, as with a voice of thunder, the necessity for some great and radi. cal change in the representative system. It is not simply, that the petitions of the people were slighted, that those who assume to be their representatives felt themselves at liberty to reject their prayer. This would have been enough, and for the consistency of our public men, we wish it were all : but, as Sir Robert Inglis remarked,—with a point and truthfulness not always characteristic of his sayings,—the petitions of the people were referred to by Lord John Russell—and the observation is equally true of others—in language which he certainly had not expected to hear from a great friend of civil and religious liberty. Well, the time will come-let protestant dissenters keep it in mind—when we shall have an opportunity of letting honourable members know what we think of the manner in which their stewardship has been discharged. Let the constituencies of London, of Edinburgh, of Lambeth, of Marylebone, of the Tower Hamlets, of Leicester, we are grieved at heart to add, of Stockport, and a hundred other places, prepare for the discharge of their duty. For ourselves, the resolution is taken—and we know that we are not alone,-no matter what the claims preferred, what the services rendered, the man who has voted for this iniquitous measure, be he who he may, whig, radical, complete suffragist, freetrader, or pseudo-voluntary, shall never have our support. We have been disposed to bear with much—perhaps too much for the sake of a common cause. Our representatives have never been required to pledge themselves to measures antagonistic to the existing hierarchy, but this recklessness of principle, this contemptuous disregard of our conscientious scruples, is not to be borne. To have been passive in the former case may have been questionable, but to continue our suffrage to men who,where no vested interests existed, where the plea of antiquity had not place, where the sentiments of the people were outraged, have originated a new ecclesiastical institute, as if in sport of conscience, would be to evidence an indifference to principle equal to their own, and an utter unworthiness of the position in which the providence of God has placed us. The present parliament is approaching to its close, but the liberal members cal. culate on the public feeling subsiding before they have occasion again to meet their constituents. It rests with us to shew, that they misapprehend us,—that as we are influenced by principle, not by passion, our resolution will partake of the enduring character of religious convictions. Let dissenters then immediately assemble in all parts of the kingdom. Let them take counsel with
each other, and enter into a solemn confederation, that on no account whatever, unless public repentance be evinced, will they exercise their suffrage for any man who has desecrated religion and scoffed at conscience by recording his vote in support of the ministerial Bill. We are glad to find that the British AntiState Society, at a public meeting in Tottenham-court Chapel, London, April 21st, has called attention to this point. The resolution then adopted, which we transfer to our pages for the guidance of our readers, was as follows:
* That the proposal of a measure so palpably infringing the first principles of religious freedom, the amount of support it has received in the House of Commons, and the arguments by which it has been defended, convince this meeting that the cause of freedom has but feeble support in the house supposed to represent the people; and justify it in calling on the electoral body throughout the United , Kingdom, to exercise the elective franchise on all future occasions, with a special reference to the preservation and extension of the principles of religious liberty at home and in the colonies.'
On the character of the opposition offered to the ministerial measure we must say a few words. It is sufficiently evident from what has been said, that we have no sympathy with the views expressed, or the grounds of opposition put forth, by members of the English establishment. As between their church and the papacy we do not interfere, believing that both are unsound in constitution, seriously detrimental to religion, and alike obstructive to political freedom. As such, therefore, we have no interest in their contention, and had not the question a larger scope than their interests, our voice would be silent. If we admitted the necessity for a church establishment in Ireland, we should be compelled to vote on behalf of that of Rome. Its adherents constitute the overwhelming majority of the Irish people; while the protestant hierarchy is regarded with mistrust and abhorrence. But we deny any such necessity, affirming, that all establishments, whether protestant or catholic, episcopal, presbyterian, or congregational, are only adapted to secularize religion, and to estrange from her confidence the great body of the people.
Neither can we look with favour-truth compels the statement-on the Central Anti-Maynooth Committee. We admit the zeal with which it has laboured, but we cannot approve its constitution or regard its procedure with complacency. The views. taken of this question by churchmen and dissenters, are so essentially diverse, that though their immediate object may be the same, they cannot proceed two steps together without a sacrifice of principle on the one side or the other. Their resolutions and public acts must be of a complexion which savours of the one
party or the other. They must speak the language of the “No Popery’ faction, or denounce the principle of state grants for religious purposes; they must recognise the title of the legislature to decide on the truth or falsehood of religious creeds, or must wholly repudiate its interference with the conscience and worship of the people. Into whatever compact individuals may enter, the public will judge of such organizations by their adopted resolutions. Let this rule then be applied to the resolutions of Exeter Hall and Covent Garden, and to the addresses and circulars which have been issued from the London Coffee House, and we defy any candid man to say, that an uniformed bye. stander could draw any other conclusion than that, the Central Anti-Maynooth Committee was an embodiment of the same evil spirit which has so frequently disgraced and cursed our country. We perceive, indeed, that at the meeting held on the 22nd of April, an attempt was made to guard against the danger to which we advert; but the circumstances which marked the effort were suspicious, and the ground of opposition recog: mised was insufficient, and, so far as the dissenting members of the committee are concerned, wanting, to say the least, in call: dour. It is within our knowledge, that the documents issued by this committee have seriously damaged our cause. They have been taken by many senators—and we do not wonder at it—as evidence of our sharing in the intolerance and bigotry of the clergy. Knowing little of dissenters, they not unnaturally infer from the furious rancour of speakers, with whom some of our men are publicly associated, that we are renegades from the cause of liberty, and strangely indifferent to the rights of the Irish people. We confess, therefore, that we greatly prefer a separate course of action, in which each section of opponents to the ministerial Bill may speak the language of an honest and intelligible consistency. Dr. Payne's admirable letter to Sir Culling Eardley Smith, has set the duty of dissenters in its true light. It is at once clear and compact, temperate and decided, just such an exposition of the case, as the interests of truth required. The following concluding passage sums up and applies his argument:
‘Now, you, Sir Culling, call upon Sir Robert Peel to act as a minister—to decide what is true and false in religion as a ministerand to give support (for I imagine that your principle implies this) or withhold support, as a minister. By requiring us not to petition against the grant, on dissenting principles, you take from us the only consistent ground on which, as dissenters, we can petition—the only ground on which, even churchmen are now beginning to see, any consistent petition can rest. So strongly do I feel the inconsistency and the danger of the course you recommend, that, if I did not know you to be a friend-an able, warm-hearted friend—I should mistake you for an enemy. Greatly do I marvel to find, in your letter, a reference to the constitution of our country, and to hear you saying that it pronounces a certain system of faith to be false and dangerous ! What, if it does? Is that, to a dissenter, a sufficient reason even for personal action against it? And yet you seem to plead it as a reason for government action !'
befales heureur lettistake
The course advocated by Dr. Payne is happily that which, in the main, has been pursued by protestant dissenters. There may have been exceptions, but they are only few, and where they have occurred, it has been from want of consideration rather than any intentional deviation from the course generally adopted. The character of dissenting opposition will be best learnt from the resolutions in which our various bodies have publicly recorded their sentiments. Some few of these we shall adduce in illustration of the case, and as matters of historical importance.
The British Anti-State Church Society is unquestionably one of the most potent organizations amongst us. Its Council of 500, comprises many of the most distinguished members of the several dissenting bodies of the empire, whilst the simplicity of its constitution, and the directness of its labours, are steadily working it into the confidence of the most enlightened and zealous portion of the community. The views recorded by this society are therefore an important element for consideration in the estimate of dissenting feeling, and these will sufficiently appear by the second and fourth of the resolutions adopted on the 26th of March. These resolutions are as follows:
• That this committee cordially admit the claim of their Roman catholic fellow-countrymen, irrespectively of their religious views, to the enjoyment of every right to which the citizens of a free community are entitled; and they protest, with equal earnestness, against the outrage done to the feelings of the Roman catholic population of Ireland by the establishment of the protestant episcopal church, as they do against the wrong sought to be inflicted upon protestants by giving state support to the diffusion of Romanism.
That, therefore, this committee, while they record their decided objection to the appropriation of any portion of the national funds, whether in the shape of parliamentary grants, or otherwise, to nonconforming communities, or to the support of the existing protestant establishments, and are engaged in seeking, by all constitutional means, the dissolution of the alliance between the church and the state, in all its forms, emphatically protest against the endowment of the Roman catholic ecclesiastical institutions, as an uncalled for and impolitic extension of a principle which they repu. diate as inimical to the civil and religious interests of the empire.