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She lean'd; and, when he did his sins recal,
• Yet hopes were fed, though but the mask of pain,
I bore the pall up to her last long home;
• Thus died poor Sally on her wedding-day-
• I've talk'd till I have almost tired my tongue;
She ceas'd her tale, and snuff'd the candle wick,
Art. IV. A Summary of the Laws peculiarly affecting Protestant
Dissenters. With an Appendix, containing Acts of Parliament,
1827. WE regret exceedingly that there should have been an
attempt made to mix up the subject of the Test and Corporation Acts with the question of Catholic Emancipation. The claims of Protestant Dissenters and the demands of the Catholics have nothing in common. They differ as widely, in their
very nature, as the claim of a creditor and the demand of workmen who strike for higher wages ; and the grounds upon which they have been severally resisted, are totally distinct. The Dissenter has been civilly put off till to-morrow : the Catholic has been told to go about his business, for he is owed nothing. Now it might be very generous for the creditor, under such circumstances, to make common cause with the unsuccessful and discontented suitor, and say, ' I will ask for my debt and your demand at the same tiine;' but he may depend upon it that he would only get frowned at by the one party, as meddling with what does not belong to him, and be secretly laughed at by the other for his good-humoured officiousness. Nay, he would stand the chance of being thought selfish in his generosity, as if he only made use of the other's demand to get his own debt paid.
Protestant Dissenters cannot, however, be accused of having of late dunned the Legislature for this long-standing debt. On the contrary, they have been so very quiet, that, were it not for the annual Indemnity Act, we should expect the Minister to reply— The Dissenters-I know nothing about them; I thought they were extinct long ago. In Lord Sidmouth's time, indeed, they raised a dust in the House by their peti
tions; but since then, the voice of a Dissenter has scarcely • been heard within the walls of St. Stephen's Chapel, except • that of a Unitarian gentleman, who hates the Methodists as • cordially as I do. We can imagine how exceedingly proyoked a prime minister must be, when his hands are so full of important matters of state, to be spoken to about any thing so insignificant as the claims of the Dissenters. We have no VOL. XXVII. N.S.
doubt that, if given to swearing, he would not refrain from it in reply to such an application.
The Dissenters, however, have been, through no fault of their own, mixed up with the Irish Catholics. Lord Liverpool, if we recollect right, suggested in a place that must not be mentioned, that, if penal disabilities were done away with regard to the Roman Catholics, no pretence could be made for continuing the restrictions on Protestant Dissenters. This he meant to operate as a decisive reason against Catholic Emancipationwith the bishops. As to the existence of any solid reason or pretence for excluding the Dissenters, his Lordship gave no opinion ; his argument almost implied that he knew of none. It is as much as if he had said, We refuse the Irish their civil rights through fear of the Pope ; but, if we grant
them what they ask for, how can we pretend to be afraid of the Dissenters, who are the Pope's mortal enemies? It may be that we shall stand in need of them to balance the boat.
Not only have the claims of the Dissenters been invidiously and injuriously mixed up with the Catholic Question ; but they have been taunted, and almost insulted, by honourable gentlemen, for not being unanimous, on a subject on which no other body or party in the nation is unanimous,- for not being consistent, on a subject on which neither the friends nor the opponents of the measure are themselves consistent,-for remaining for the most part—some bustling bigots and alarmists ex cepted-quiet and neutral, when, in our humble judgement, it became them to be so. Being thus challenged and called upon, they have at length come forward, but in divided force, (owing to subsequent political changes,) temperately to reassert their undeniable claim to the free enjoyment of the common rights of citizenship.
Mr. Burke said in the House, the last time the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts was agitated, (March 2, 1790,) that • he never could bear abstract principles; he detested them
when a boy, and he liked them no better now he had silver • hairs. Abstract principles were what his clumsy apprehension could not grasp; he must have a principle embodied in some manner or other, and the conduct held upon it ascere • tained, before he could pretend to judge of its propriety and advantage in practice. 'But, of all abstract principles, ab* stract principles of natural right-which the Dissenters rested
on as their strong hold-were the most idle, because the most useless and the most dangerous to resort to*.' This affected
* Burke's Speeches. Vol. III. p. 475.
dislike of abstract principles must have sounded very strange, proceeding as it did from the Author of the Theory of the Sublime and Beautiful. But Mr. Burke knew where he was standing, and he spoke advisedly. Abstract principles may have made a little way since then ; but the very large class in the upper ranks who worship the memory of this great man, are much of his way of thinking. From Lord Eldon downwards, the majority of our peers and senators detest abstract principles, and are afraid of them for the same reason that Mr. Burke assigned,—they do not understand them. Now, although we do not sympathize either in this fear or in this dislike, nor have modesty enough to plead guilty to the same incapacity, we do agree with this eloquent antagonist of ab. stract principles in the present case, so far as to think, that it is almost idle, because quite useless, for Dissenters to have recourse to them. It seems to us extremely absurd, to go up to Parliament with a petition framed in the shape of a moral lecture upon any question ; especially when we know how much easier it is to carry a point, than to obtain consent to a proposition. How many persons would sooner liberally relieve a beggar, than hear his tale! But what treatment might he expect, if, instead of a tale of grievance, he commenced a homily on the duty of almsgiving! Dissenters weaken their cause by having recourse to abstract pleas, intangible, and, how certain soever in their own nature, yet practically controvertible. Besides, these abstract principles are not only such as the clumsy apprehension' of Mr. Burke's disciples cannot grasp; they are positively odious to our legislators ; and a majority in the House of Commons would, we verily believe, more readily concede the claims of Dissenters, than admit the general principles upon which these claims have sometimes been made to rest.
No man acts, no body of men ever acted, upon abstract principles, because, while they afford a rule, they supply no motive. A right line forms no principle of action. A wise man will be anxious never to offend against abstract principles, never to deviate from the right line; but his reason for walking or running, rather than for standing still, cannot be drawn from the existence of the right line, but from something at the further end of it. But we are ourselves falling unawares under Mr. Burke's condemnation, and we proceed at once, therefore, to matter of fact.
Once upon a time, there was a king of England, who was in the pay of a Popish king of France, had a papist for his brother and heir, and a very rascally set of favourites and creatures about him as his ministers. These men were strongly
suspected of having two objects much at heart; the one was, to overturn the Protestant religion, and the other, to destroy the constitutional liberties of Englishmen. In those days, Popery and slavery meant the same thing, or, at least, always went together; and the patriotic party in the House of Commohs, sensible, and not without ample reason, that the security of their civil rights depended upon the exclusion of the Duke of York's party, brought in a bill, which is stated in the preamble to be, an • Act for preventing of dangers which may
happen from Popish recusants,' and which had for its object, to disable all Papists from holding any employment or place at court. This Act, commonly called the Test Act, requires all persons in public trust to receive the sacrament in a parish church, and to carry an attested certificate of the same into Chancery or the County Sessions, and there to make a declaration renouncing transubstantiation in full and positive words. This measure was of course extreruely obnoxious to the Court, and great pains were taken to prevent its passing. And when, during the debate in the House of Commons, it was observed, that the Bill had been drawn in such a manner as to comprehend the Protestant Dissenters, the court-party endeavoured to avail themselves of that circumstance in order to defeat the bill. By this means,' says Bishop Burnet, they hoped to • have set them and the Church party into new heats; for now * all were united against Popery. Love, who served for the
city of London, and was himself a Dissenter, saw what ill effects any such quarrel might have; so he moved, that an effectual security might be found against Popery, and that nothing might interpose till that was done. When that was over, then they would try to deserve some favour; but at
present, they were willing to lie under the severity of the laws, • rather than clog a more necessary work with their concerns.
The chief friends of the sects agreed to this. So a vote • passed to bring in a bill in favour of Protestant Dissenters, • though there was not time enough, nor unanimity enough, • to finish one this session, For it went no further than a ' second reading, but was dropped in the Committee.'*
This last statement is not quite correct. The bill, which went much further than relieving Dissenters from the consequences of the Test Act, passed the Commons, but was sent down by the Lords with some amendments : while these amendments were being debated, the parliament was suddenly prorogued through the resentment of the Court, and the intended favour to the Dissenters was prevented. And when afterwards, in the