« ZurückWeiter »
We have protested to the government,' remarked Dr. Morison, on moving this resolution
"Against the English Regium Donum ; but the minister of the day has always told us, that, so long as there are men amongst us who will receive it for the purpose of distribution, so long it shall be paid to our denomination. I wish it to go forth to these nine gentlemen, for whom we all entertain a very cordial respect, that, whatever may be their personal liberty on this subject, they owe deference to the generally expressed wish of their brethren. If this meeting were a hundred-fold larger than it is, I believe we should agree in requesting these nine gentlemen to withdraw from the anomalous position they occupy, in being the recipients and distributors of that bounty.'
The position occupied by the distributors of this grant, is far from enviable, and we wait to see whether this reiterated appeal will have the effect which is desired. On a former occasion, we gave the history of the grant, and pointed out the measures, which in our judgment were advisable, to remove the reproach which it casts upon us, and we shall not therefore again enter on these points. Repudiated by all our bodies, condemned on every hand as inconsistent with our principles, and obstructive to their diffusion, it is yet received by the nine distributors.* We are not surprised at the course pursued by many of these gentlemen. It is in keeping with other parts of their procedure, and does not unnaturally flow from their general policy. But there is one amongst them for whom we entertain so profound a respect, of whose cordial attachment to our common principle we have received so many and such earnest proofs, that we confess ourselves deeply solicitous for his removal from so anomalous a position. The authority of his name goes far to neutralize the disclaimers of the dissenting body, whilst others are fortified by it in retaining a position which they would otherwise be scarcely willing to hold, We feel that in thus alluding to an individual, we are on delicate ground, but he will be the first to admit the validity of our plea, however he may differ from us in judgment, when we urge the interests of truth, and the consistency of our opposition to the state-church system, in vindication of our course. It is no trifling consideration--and we earnestly and respectfully crave attention to these facts-that, the reception of this grant is universally regarded by us, as inconsistent with our principles, and injurious to our cause ; that our various organizations, whether metropolitan or provincial, have condemned it; that every assembly of dissenters, no matter where convened, or what minor differences may exist, are
* The vacancy created by the resignation of Dr. Cox has been supplied by the Rev. John Peacock, of Goswell Street Road.
perfectly unanimous in its reprobation; that our opponents appeal to it in proof of our insincerity, and that, the legislature and the public cannot be convinced-whatever we say to the contrary--but that it betokens a willingness to receive state pay, against which, as granted to others, we are accustomed to protest. May we yet learn that, to the many other proofs afforded of enlightened and earnest attachment to the voluntary principle, there has been added the surrender of a post which friends cannot vindicate, and over which opponents triumph.
Having recorded their opposition, on the grounds stated, to the Maynooth College Bill, and pointed the attention of Dissenters to the electoral duties devolving on them to the latter of which points we shall presently advert—the Conference proceeded to express its sympathy with the Irish Roman catholics, under their many wrongs, and to offer them for themselves and those they represent, zealous, energetic, and persevering co-operation, to secure by constitutional means, for all classes of the Irish people, as for themselves, equal, just, and impartial liberty.'
An address to the Roman catholics of Ireland, prepared at the request of the committee, by Mr. Mursell, was adopted with the most hearty cordiality, in which freer utterance than a resolution admits, was given to the views and feelings of the assembly. This paper was worthy of the occasion, and may henceforth be triumphantly appealed to in proof of the generous sympathy and enlightened sentiments of British dissenters. We regret that our space does not permit us to give the document entire, but should fail in vur duty to our readers, did we not transcribe the following passages :
..... You are placed by circumstances, the origin and growth of which it is unnecessary to trace, in a position so conspicuous and so critical as to attract towards you the anxious attention of all patriotic men in these realms, and of the liberal and the thoughtful throughout the civilised world. On your conduct at the present juncture, the mightiest and most sacred interests are suspended, and with you, under divine Providence, rest those issues which are destined to give a complexion, for an indefinite period, to the history of this empire. Your fidelity to the great principles of justice must inevitably pro. mote its peace, prosperity, and freedom; your betrayal of them will necessarily be the omen, at least, of their temporary disaster and defeat. ....
• You need not to be reminded that the dissenters of England were among the warmest supporters of the Catholic Relief bill, that they heartily advocated the equal extension of political privileges to the Irish as to the English people ; that they supported the claims of your country to an equal share in the benefits of Municipal Re.
form; that they rejoiced in the abolition of your Vestry Cess; and that they viewed with strong indignation the recent attempts of your government to strain the powers of the law in the tyrannical suppression of public opinion. They have ever fought side by side with you in all your conflicts for social and political equality, nor will any misconstruction which may have been put on their conduct prevail to diminish the earnestness of their efforts in your defence. Still you cannot expect them to surrender, on this very account, the principles which, even on the occasions referred to, have regulated their public conduct.
"We have ever held that, of all the grievances under which your country has laboured, the establishment of the Anglican church in Ireland is the most unjustifiable and oppressive, and we pledge ourselves never to remit our efforts to remove from you this intolerable burden. We deem it a fundamental maxim, even of the commonest political justice and in this opinion we are fortified by that of some of the most eminent members of the Roman catholic church—that no compulsory payments can be rightfully demanded for the support of any religious system whatever. In this simple but vital principle lies involved the whole philosophy of nonconformity. The slightest deviation from this ground would virtually amount to a surrender of our consistency, and would obviously expose us to the merited derision of all discerning men. Now it will be plain to you that the proposed measure for the permanent endowment of the college of Maynooth involves the most direct invasion of this principle. It places your dissenting fellow-subjects in the very position from which they are striving to rescue you. It violates their consciences as offensively as the protestant establishment, in its tyrannical exactions, violates yours. It re-enacts the obnoxious principle, it is an extension of the very system, which you, in common with ourselves, have long been labouring to overthrow. To tolerate this measure, is distinctly to sanction and assert that principle.' * * *
'If this grant is to be regarded for a moment in the light of restitution, the meanness of the proposal sufficiently indicates that it is intended merely as preliminary. It is too absurd to suppose that the wealthiest and most powerful government in the world, should look upon the insignificant pittance of about £26,000 a year, as a compensation for the urgent claims of a great people. But if this measure is preliminary, we beg you to consider, what is that system which it is designed to introduce. The cautious and cbaracteristic silence of the government has been generally, and, we believe, correctly interpreted, both within and without the walls of parliament, as a virtual admission of their desire eventually to take the whole body of your priesthood into the pay of the state. Can it be necessary to suggest to you the consequences of such a scheme? It would violate the consciences, not only of the class who already suffer a scarcely tolerable indignity on this account, but of the entire christian community in these realms. Dissenters, who already groan under the exactions of one establishment, will rise with a more reso
lute determination against the endowment of a second. The recognised leaders of the Irish catholics have again and again pronounced decisively against such an arrangement; whilst the Anglican church must either repeal its articles or sacrifice every claim to consistency and good faith. Religious animosities, proverbially the most bitter that agitate the breasts of men, would be exacerbated to an incalculable degree; while, as state support and state controul are invariably correlative, the most earnest of your religious teachers would be placed under a dictation unbearably galling to all save those whom it may seduce to the compromise o that is dear to high-minded and conscientious men. In a word, such a measure would reduce to a mere name all public virtue and consistency, and stain with ineffable disgrace the sacred cause of christianity itself. “The opposition of the dissenting body to the government measure has, by some thoughtless and impetuous men, been indiscriminately condemned as fanatical and bigoted. We indignantly repudiate the charge as applied to the great nonconforming body. Let us never hear it repeated. We are ready to contend by your side for the attainment of an equal participation of all rights, ecclesiastical, political, and social; but we will not sacrifice our consciences to the success of a state trick, nor will we patiently submit to be taxed for a bribe to you, which we should spurn with contempt, were it offered to ourselves. “With all the earnestness, then, which a concern for the highest interests of our fellow-men can excite, we conjure you, by your selfrespect as British subjects—by the lofty position you occupy, as the peaceful, but resolute defenders of your national freedom—by the claim of ordinary consistency, as political agents—and, above all, by the solemn requirements of religious fidelity, to reject the unhallowed bribe offered at your very altars by secular and hostile hands; and, turning your back upon the temporary and crafty homage of a faction, to throw yourselves on the might of those resources, by which the religion of Christ survived, at its origin, the persecution of a world; and in the strength of which, it is, as we trust, destined hereafter to bless the universal family of man.’ For the present we leave the other proceedings of the Conference, and turn to the debate in the lower house, on the third reading of the Maynooth Bill. It commenced on Monday the 19th of May, and was continued through three successive mights, being deficient in a remarkable degree in all the higher and more stirring qualities of parliamentary discussions. Mr. Shiel reiterated his slanders in the face of accumulating evidence, which ought to have silenced the most prejudiced opponent: * Lord John Russell endeavoured to con
* “If I have adverted to the dissenters,” remarked the member for Dungarvon—and the observation, be it remembered, was subsequent to the presentation of the petition of the Conference, the contents of which were stated to the House by Mr. Bright—“it is for a special purpose. The honour
ciliate dissenters, admitting that they had, 'not been much represented in the house,' and adding, whose sentiments I have heard very little of in the course of these debates, but whose opinions I am accustomed highly to value, and who, I am sure, have come to their conclusions from conscientious convictions :' —and Sir Robert Peel repelled, in a spirit scarcely less than reckless, the bitter taunts and charges of his own party. On a division, the bill was carried by a majority of 317 to 184. The
Times' has published an analysis of the division, from which it appears that of the supporters of the bill, 150 only were conservatives, while 169 were members of the liberal party. Of the former, 152 voted against the premier, and only 34 of the latter could be found to defer to the petitions of the people, and rally in defence of religious liberty. And this too, as appears by the 24th Report of the Committee on Petitions, against 8,758 petitions, signed by no less than 1,106,772 persons, a greater number than are on the registries of all the counties, cities, and boroughs in Great Britain. Well, be it so. We needed to be taught this lesson, and shall profit by it. We have clung to Whig alliances too long, and this will go far to disen. gage us. We have been condemned for the terms in which we have sometimes referred to them, but our most moderate men, those who have adhered most firmly to the school of Lord John, are now uttering words which they deemed rash from us some few years since. Their eyes are opening to the truth, and the whole obligations of it will soon flash upon them. We love some of the historical memories of whiggery, and our judgments are hence deluded: but it is in the highest degree impolitic, in the leaders of this party to compel us, as they have recently done, to sift their pretensions by a rigid comparison of their principles and policy with the requirements and duties of these times. However, they have compelled us to do so; and, in doing it, have driven us to the conclusion, that, whatever services they rendered in the days of Charles II. and of his infatuated brother; whatever we owe them for resisting the machinations of the Tories at the close of the reign of Anne, or for advocating the constitutional rights of Englishmen, when the apostate son of the Earl of Chatham sought the extinction of our liberties, - they are utterly unequal to the requirements of these days, and are ignorant of the first principles of religious freedom. We might have remained insensible to this for some time longer; and, had we done so, the benefit would have been able member for Dorsetshire adverted to an expression of mine-for he is equally expert in polemics and politics; and he said I was extremely rash in speaking of the dissenters as I did. Sir, I have no sort of notion of recanting one opinion I have ever given on this subject.'