Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub

fraught with unfeigned zeal and enlightened patriotism, labour to bring it about."

Besides, the question of the day was political reform ; and as Dissent was opposed to Democracy in State, so we argue from subsequent events, it was not democratic in matters ecclesiastical. So late as 1831, the Eclectic denounced "the wild and visionary schemes of the Radical Reformers, which had almost brought the very name of Reform into disrepute." In the same number, the Eclectic exclaimed, “ What was really extraordinary and portentous was the rapid manner in which a particular measure, the Ballot, was at one time gaining favour with all classes of Reformers. What has Lord John Russell's Bill effected by its very announcement ? We hear no more of the Ballot-an attempt to foil corruption by the resources of the slave; we hear no more of Universal Suffrage-a plan for collecting the decision of the majority, which defeats itself by its cumbrous impracticability, as well as its unreasonableness."

Later still, in 1832, the Eclectic maintained that “the tithes are no more vested in the Legislature than are the Irish estates of a London company, or the endowments of our dissenting academies and meeting-houses.” In the same number, the publications of the Ecclesiastical Knowledge Society, on the

1

con

same subject, are not only condemned, but said to have been“ very generally disapproved," the Eclectic protesting thus : “ The allegation that tithe is an invasion of the rights of science,' we cannot but regard as altogether erroneous.” With these views, the Patriot newspaper, which began in the early part of 1832, in its first numbers, wholly coincided.

From these quotations, only one of two inferences is permissible ; either that the idea of separating Church and State had not assumed any tangible form in the mind of Dissenters, as a body, previous to 1832, or, if such an intention was generally entertained then, that it was not known, and not meant to be known; and that, therefore, it was studiously concealed and decried in the columns of Dissenting organs. Indeed, one of the greatest changes, as we shall show hereafter, effected by the Reform Bill of 1832, was its conversion of Dissent into a political faction. It transferred power from the higher to the middle classes, and to those middle classes Dissenters mostly belonged, and do yet belong. Accordingly, no sooner was it safe, than Dissenters and their organs, from a grievous exaggeration of their new powers, began to look forward to, and agitate for, the separation of Church and State, and the perfect equality of all religious sects. The probabilities of the case all tend to the same conclusion, that such principles and objects as are now entertained by Dissent, were not propagated before 1830. Allowing that they were even entertained, expediency itself suggested the policy of suppression. It was only by concealing such ulterior aims that Dissent enlisted under its banner recruits from every political party in turn. It was only thus that at one time, Wilkes and Fox at another, Canning, Wellington, and Peel, were induced to lead its forces. Otherwise, in the events of 1828 and 1829, both those statesmen and their colleagues were acting the part either of principals or accessories to a conspiracy for the overthrow of the Established Church; and, by consequence, according even to Earl Russell, for the overthrow of the aristocracy and the monarchy of these realms.

The matter under discussion is capable, perhaps, of being best cleared up by illustration. With Earl Russell, I believe that the downfall of the aristocracy and monarchy will follow close upon the downfall of the Established Church. I believe also, that if the Established Church were overthrown, it would then be the aim of political Dissent to overthrow both the aristocracy and the monarchy. Now, we will suppose that the dust of the Established Church is given to the four

1

winds of heaven, as Mr. Miall so fondly anticipates, about A.D. 2000. Quod omen Deus avertat. Well, soon after that event, I doubt not, an agitation would be commenced against the aristocracy and monarchy. And, within some thirty years after, I can imagine some democratic Dissenter to rise up and declare that this agitation was no new movement; that it had been again and again proclaimed in Parliament and out of it, by the Dissenters and their friends, previous to A.D. 2000; that the movement for the separation of Church and State had never been represented as final, but meant to be only initial; that it was simply the politic and strategic wisdom of the movers which concentrated the dissenting force upon this first wall of defence; and that everybody knew they would ask for more than the separation of Church and State. Would, then, such statements, made subsequent to A.D. 2000, be true of any movements now occurring? Is it really the fact, that whilst the pulling down of the Established Church is the primary object at present, the ulterior object of pulling down the aristocracy and the monarchy is a concomitant movement, and universally recognised as such ?

I cannot, then, assent that, whilst aiming, prior to 1830, at the abolition of civil disabilities, Dis

[ocr errors]

senters were also aiming at the abolition of the Established Church, and far less, that this design was generally known. Nay, I maintain that the hypothesis just now assumed, is much less of an hypothesis than this. I believe that the number of those who, in our day, secretly and openly cherish the design of overthrowing the aristocracy and monarchy, is much greater than that of those who, prior to 1830, conceived the idea of overthrowing the Established Church. The truth, however, is, that some persons greatly mistake the character and policy of political Dissent. In its very essence and nature, Dissent is aggressive. But it is fresh victories that beget a lust for fresh conquests, and suggest new fields of action and new enterprises. As, then, it would be an error to represent Dissent as avowedly bent in our day upon the rooting out of the aristocracy and the monarchy, when it confines its operations to uprooting only the Established Church so to represent Dissent as openly and avowedly committed to the abolition of the Established Church, when its efforts were devoted to the . abolition of civil disabilities, is also an error, not only in fact, but in inference. Dissenting force is concentrated upon one and the first line of defence. When that is carried, new hopes and aspirations spring up, and another plan of operation is mapped

« ÖncekiDevam »