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A LETTER TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE LORD NUGENT, Containing some Remarks on his Lordship's Letter to the Electors of Aylesbury,
FROM A PROTESTANT LAYMAN.
MY LORD, E I have not till lately had an oppor- controversy with an anonymous anta
tunity of seeing your Lordship’s let- gonist. I am not ambitious of proter to the Electors of Aylesbury, al- longing the contest; but having enthough it has been long since publish- tered the lists, although I do not ed, and gone through more than one “ wear my vizor up,” I will not shiedition. The public attention being ver my lance with a less degree of thus manifestly directed towards this courtesy. address is a sufficient reason for lay-i Your Lordship begins by stating ing these remarks before your Lord- that other religious sects, differing ship, and offering them to the notice from the established Church, have
of others who feel an interest in the constitutional advantages which are í subject, notwithstanding the decision denied to Roman Catholics, because
of the House of Lords may seem to “their spiritual opinions are rendered make such a discussion less necessary. the active, immediate, and sole instruThe pertinacity evinced by the advó- ment of their disfranchisement ;" and, cates for the Roman Catholic claims in a note you add, “ Religious liberty
forbids us to hope that the question is either a universal principle, or it sean long remain at rest; it may not, is no priuciple at all.”. I will endea
therefore, be entirely useless for a vour to defend the distinction which spectator of the struggle to submit to the English laws have made, and to the public such arguments as may oca dispute the supposedl axiom you have cur to his mind, and thus endeavour, laid down on the subject of religious if I may be allowed an expression liberty. Although it is an acknowwhich a great poet has used in speak- ledged principle, that man has an iming of a much higher authority, to prescriptible right to worship his justify to the country the vote of the Creator in the manner he thinks most Peers. This attempt is the more nea acceptable, yet even this obvious truth cessary as the representatives of the may admit of some limitations. It people, in examining the question, must depend on the peculiar nature of have come to a different conclusion. the tenets and practices of each parti
The widely diffused pages of Black- cular religious sect, differing from wood's Magazine appear to me as good that of the state, whether it shall be a vehicle for conveying these thoughts entitled to full and free toleration. To to the public eye as any other ; and it illustrate this position, if indeed it remay in this way have as fair a chance quire any elucidation, let us suppose an of gaining your Lordship's attention. extreme case. The most ancient religion
There is something conciliating in known in this island is that of which the manly sentiments avowed by your the Druids were the officiating minisLordship in the outset of the Address, ters. In this age, so prolific in the asserting that claim to which every eccentricities of the human mind, it is honest, independent member of Par- not quite impossible but that some liament ought to adhere, viz. to exer- wild spirits might conceive a fancy to cise his best judgment freely upon all revive a form of worship, sanctioned great national questions, unfettered by such high and venerable antiquity. by the instructions, and even unbias- We have already heard of a society, sed by the opinions of his constituents. supposed to be convivial, the ceremoI rejoice, nevertheless, to find that the nies of which are, however, only known Electors of Aylesbury, and, I trust, to the initiated, which has assumed the great majority of the Electors of this antique appellation. But if relithe United Kingdom, do not coincide gious rites were the acknowledged in opinion with your Lordship on the purpose of their meeting, and they subject before us.
were to declare themselves the only I purpose examining briefly the true worshippers of the Deity, the most prominent topics contained in wreaths of oak and boughs of misselthe letter. You profess to decline all toe would too much remind us of the
ancient customs recorded in history, infallibility claimed by pontiffs, whose not to put the civil power on their lives have been stained by the most disguard, who ought to take especial care graceful profligacy; or when we read that no grand sacrifice should be cele of two or three Popes at the same time brated at the great temple at Stone- thundering their anathemas against henge. On the same grounds, it is each other. We may be inclined to justifiable and right to take adequate smile at Lord Peter, when he assures measures of precaution against any Jack and Martin that his “brown loaf other religious sect, which, in times is excellent good mutton;" but we will less remote, had been known to im- never quarrel with him for his notions, molate human victims. May not, whatever they may be, unless he should therefore, constitutional advantages be insist on our assent to them, and reasonably denied to a sect of mad en- threaten to punish severely all who, thusiasts, which might properly be presume to express the smallest doubt granted to religionists of another de- of any proposition he may chuse to lay scription.
down. It is to prevent the possibility But the Roman Catholic is not, as that such an extravagant exertion of your Lordship supposes, deprived of power should thus fetter the human his civil rights “because he prays for mind—a power which the Church of the intercession of the Saints between Rome has for ages been known to himself and his Maker, because he re- abuse—that every barrier against it cognizes the Pope in spiritualities, and should be strengthened in this Probecause he believes in the real presence testant country. of our Lord in the elements of the Eligibility to Parliament, your Lord Sacrament of the Last Supper.” It is ship observes, is not power; but you because he has an invincible propen- must allow that it is the high road sity to force these doctrines on the be- which leads to it. Good sense and lief of other men.
sound policy dictate the shutting up There is a sort of pugnacious dispo- this avenue against those whom it sition in the human mind, which ex- would be dangerous to admit to a cites hostility between persons of dif- place at the farthest extremity. This ferent opinions, and even between those is a more safe and easy, mode of preof different tastes. Voltaire tells us, vention, than to suffer the competitors that the French hate the English be- to cross and jostle each other in this cause they eat melted butter with their path of ambition, to their own annoyroasted veal. John Bull is not behind- ance, and that of the public. hand in his antipathies formed on si- But your Lordship’s arguments go a milar foundations. There may be still stillgreater length, and attempt to show found, honest Protestants who feel this that there is no danger in admitting sensation towards the Catholics, on ac- the Roman Catholics to a participation count of some articles of their faith. I of the power of the State. If this be believe, however, that these prejudices proved, there is surely an inconsistency are wearing out on both sides. The in limiting the crown to a Protestant most orthodox Spaniard now, scarcely head. You, my Lord, think there is believes that the British heretic is no inconsistency in this limitation, bemarked with that appendage to his cause it is so fixed by the Act of Settleperson which Lord Monboddo suspect- ment. An Act of Parliament, all powered to have belonged originally to the ful as it is, cannot make consistent whole human race. I am confident what in its nature is otherwise. If that the more enlightened part of our power is harmless in Roman Catholic religious community has no distaste to hands, why should the conscience of their neighbours because they differ on the king be fettered any more than that speculative points of doctrine. The of his subjects ? The same reason will examination of these opinions properly apply to the sovereign and to the peobelongs to the learned Divines of our ple. The striking example, however, church-able and ready as they are, to of James the Second, will serve to de expose and confute error wheresoever monstrate that there is some danger in they may find it. We Laics may shrug this liberality of sentiment, and that up our shoulders when we hear tradi- the act of settlement was the work of tion set up as having equal authority wisdom. with Sacred Scripture. We may stretch King James, before his accession, deour eyes with wonder when we find clared, in the House of Peers, the feel. ings of his conscience on religious mat- ranny of the preceding reign, the Proters. He assured them, that his reli- testants, who had just acquired the gion was an affair between God and his ascendancy, should sometimes retaliate own soul, which would have no opera« on their fallen oppressors. They were tion whatever on the people of Eng- however, in general, averse to the folly land. Even after he had succeeded to and wickedness of such a system, and the crown of his brother, he made the soon renounced the practice of it. The · most solemn professions to maintain church of England, in particular, has the established government in church acted on principles more conformable and state. James was a prince who to that religion whi was taught by piqued himself on keeping his word the Prince of Peace. It has been said, sacred and inviolate. It is worth ob- in excuse for the barbarities which, in servation too, that Queen Mary, before former times, have been exercised unshe was firmly seated in her throne, der the sanction of the Roman Cathohad given her Protestant subjects simi- lic church, that these cruel persecular promises of protection. How did. tions are to be imputed solely to the these royal zealots fulfil their engage- character of a semi-barbarous age. The ments ?- The cruel persecutions of Court of Charles IX. of France, poMary, and the events of James's short lished by the manners imported from but turbulent reign, and his final ex. Italy by his mother, Catherine de pulsion from his kingdom, will answer Medici, would not have received this question. These facts exhibit, in thankfully such an apology for the the clearest light, the genius of the Massacre of St Bartholomew. WhatRoman Catholic religion, and shew ever may be thought now of the rewhether it is, or is not, the acknowa finements of the 16th century, Louis ledged maxim of that church to keep XIV. the Grand Monarque, that soveno faith with heretics. The motives reign whose politeness was the model of action of its professors may be laud- and envy of the rest of Europe, will able. If they can believe that there is scarcely be chronicled as a semi-barno salvation to be obtained out of the barian, when he inflicted on his Probounds of their pale, they may easily testant subjects, those severities which
persuade themselves of the duty of followed the revocation of the edict of Ć compelling others to come in. Other Nantz. sects bave either more enlarged views Your Lordship appears inclined to of the divine mercy, or are less anxious affix the stigma of persecution upon about the future fate of their fellow- the Protestants more strongly than the creatures. Whatever their motives may matter of fact will authorize. The be, they do not so much torment those massacre of Glencoe, for instance, you who differ from them with the rage of have pressed into the service, although making proselytes.
it seems to have no connection with But
persecution, you say, is not pe- religious disputes, the sufferers in that culiar to the professors of Catholicism. cruel and infamous transaction being The axe and the faggot have been em- political, and not religious victims. ployed by other hands in the cause of The enemies of King William have religion, and even by Protestants. accused him of being the author of John Calvin, it is true, burnt Servetus this savage deed; but a full investiat Geneva ; and John Knox encoura- gation before the Scottish Parliament ged many acts of intemperate violence clearly refuted the calumny against in Scotland. Men of savage tempers the champion of Protestantism. The will act like savages. The early re- fact was simply this :forners had been bred up in the prin- A clan of Highlanders, partisans of ciples of the Roman Catholic Church; King James, who inhabited the nar* and it might be expected that some of row valley of Glencoe, in the western those fiery natures, which were inca- part of Scotland, had, from various pable of being softened by the pure causes, delayed to accept the terms and mild spirit of genuine Christian- which had been offered to the Jaco
ity, should apply the same means of bites of that country in general, and * extirpating error, which they had had not appeared at the appointed learned in that intolerant school
. Nor place before the time fixed for swearis it surprising that, during the reigning allegiance to the new King had of Elizabeth, recentibus odiis," smart- expired. The chief of the clan had, iug, as they still were, from the ty- nevertheless, been permitted to take
the oath a short time afterwards. Not- would most certainly have been comwithstanding this, the people of Glen- prehended by the crown-lawyers, had coe were adjudged, by the ruling you hinted that your sovereign was a powers of Scotland, to be liable to that Protestant, which, in his case, would rigorous punishment which the reg ni have been synonymous with the hated novitas seemed to them to require, and name of heretic. The Protestants of they were consequently exposed to the England are contented to look up to military vengeance of fire and sword. the memory of the mild Edward VI. Political animosity, joined to other as their first sovereign and royal pabad passions, urged on those to whom tron; they are not desirous of claim. the execution of these sanguinary or- ing a higher degree of antiquity than ders were entrusted. A party of sol. truly belongs to them. Let the Ca. diers were sent to Glencoe. They tholic enjoy the supposed advantage were hospitably received, and even en- of priority; but whilst they affect to tertained for several days by the un- look down on the novi homines who suspecting inhabitants. Suddenly in have, in their opinion, only existed the night, they were attacked, but- for a few centuries, let these champichered, and their houses burnt by ons of the olden time recollect, that if their pitiless guests. A more hateful the doctrines of the Reformation are deed can scarcely be found in the re- founded in truth, our religion existed cords of human atrocity; religious in the times of the apostles ; so that bigotry has, however, enough to an- the abuses of the church of Rome have swer for, without being loaded with not even the claim of superior anticrimes not its own,
quity to recommend them to the ChrisBut the most extraordinary position tian world. your Lordship has laid down, is that The new opinions and practices of of giving our religion the honour of the Roman Catholic church were grahaving King Henry VIII. as our first dually introduced as her wealth and Protestant monarch! Had it been power increased ; and her growing auyour Lordship’s lot to have lived un- thority enabled ambitious pontiffs, der the sway of that fierce Defender during the darkness of the middle of the Faith, and you had hazarded ages, to domineer over kings and their such a declaration, if you had escaped people. Observers of discernment canthe flames which slowly consumed the not fail to remark, that every
institupoor schoolmaster Lambert, who dared tion she has adopted had for its end and to dispute upon theology with his so- aim the extending and confirming the vereign, or if you had been spared the power of that church over mankind. racks and torments which destroyed The celibacy of the clergy, auricular the interesting and intrepid Anne confession, the infliction of penance, Ascue, you would certainly have in the granting absolution and indulcurred the penalty of high treason. gence, the high claim of holding the This royal Blue-beard, after he had keys of heaven and hell, all tended quarrelled with the Pope, took on most forcibly to the same point. Some himself the supremacy of the church efforts were made to restore the simple in England ; allowed his people a doctrines of the gospel, and to shake translation of the Bible; and in some off the tyranny of Rome, but with other particulars seemed to take plea- little success, in different parts of Eusure in shewing his contempt for his rope. The Albigenses in the south of Holiness, and his ordinances; but he France, the Lollards, as they were burned without mercy all those who contemptuously called in England, denied the general doctrines of the and the Waldenses, in the valleys of church, and, in particular, the real Piedmont, attempted to effect this, but presence of the body and blood of sunk under the cruel persecutions of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucha. their enemies. rist; nor did he less rigorously put to It cannot be thought extraordinary death all those who doubted his right if some of the doctrines of these reto assume the power of supreme head formers should partake of the ignorance of the church within his own domi- of the age in which they sprang up. nions. To the various species of trea- But their tenets and their principles son which it pleased him to create, he have been greatly calumniated. The added that of speaking ill of the King; Roman Catholic writers have chosen to under which clause your Lordship impute to the whole body of the Albi. genses the absurd notions of a few mad caring to be troubled with landed
profanatics, who were distinguished by perty, and having no taste for politie the title of the Brethren and Sisters of cal squabbles, become voluntary slaves the Free Spirit. This is one of the of this description, without once suspious frauds of the Holy See. It was pecting their unhappy condition? Shall convenient to vilify those whom they we give this base appellation to those were resolved to destroy. The calumny millions of our countrymen who culhas been plainly refuted by Mosheim tivate the soil, who perform the useful in his Ecclesiastical History, and by part of artisans, who man our fleets, other writers of undoubted credit. The and fill the ranks of our armies? How abuses and the oppressions, however, of few of these, according to your lordthe church of Rome gradually became ship's definition, are entitled to the intolerable, and in the time of Pope character of free men! Yet these perLeo X. had reached their acme. The sons have not themselves this morbid pure flame which was then kindled by feeling. They are in general satisfied Luther, Melancthon, and Zuinglius, that the laws have placed the right of spread through Europe. In the southó choosing representatives in handswhich ern countries the roots of superstition have a common interest with them had taken too deep a hold ; in Spain, selves ;-an interest sensibly felt by in particular, the terrors of the Inqui- the makers of those laws, which bind sition effectually prevented all free dise and guard the whole community. They cussion ; but in the northern regions imagine themselves perfectly safe in the reformed doctrines were more prose this protection ;--they think thempervus.
selves free ;-they boast of it in those Much has been said of the exertions popular songs which, over their cups, of our Catholic ancestors in the cause occasionally recreate their holiday of liberty. In those soils where this hours ;-they are animated by an hoa spirit is congenial, even the mind-con- nest pride, whilst they assist in the tracting tenets of Rome could not stifle defence of what they fancied to be it. The Saxon Catholics in England their free constitution. There are, ininherited the love of freedom from deed, patriots who incessantly labour their heathen ancestors in the woods to convince these ignorant mortals that of Germany; and whatever British their happiness is an empty shadow, blood was mingled in the veins of the and who would relieve their mind from new possessors of this island, infused this agreeable delusion. We have a portion of the same spirit, which seen the consequences of these efforts disdained to yield to the arms of the to enlighten, and the unfortunate il first Cæsar, and which broke out with luminati have severely felt them. fresh lustre under the noble but un- Might not one of these victims to the fortunate Caractacus. In spite of that mania of political benevolence, when absolute submission to the will of ano- on the scaffold, to which the lessons of ther, and that total abandonment of free their philanthropic friends have conthought, which the church of Rome in- ducted several of them, exclaim, in the culcates, the descendants of such proge- words of Horace’s madman just renitors wrested the great charter from the stored to his senses --" Pol me occihands of the tyrant at Runnymeau.
distis amici!” But you say, my lord, that the Ro- As to the complaint against the forman Catholic is the only slave in this mation of juries, I would ask the first free country ;-he neither makes laws Roman Catholic I met, who was a man nor levies taxes through his repre- of sense, whether he ever knew or sentatives, having no voice in sending heard of a suspicion being entertained them to Parliament ;-he is even pur against a Protestant jury for having nished for having the misfortune to be been improperly biassed against an acan Englishman; because, iftried forany cused person, on account of his difoffence, he is not entitled to a Catholic ferent religious tenets. I would subjury, one-half of which at least would be mit to the same arbitration, if he had the right of a Frenchman or a Spaniard, the misfortune to hold up his hand at according to the laws of England. If a criminal bar, whether he would prefer a man cannot call himself free, who has the foreigner's privilege of a jury e menot the first of these privileges, what diate lingua to the usual pannel of Engshall we say of some wealthy persons lish Protestants. among our fellow-subjeets, who, not If the Representation were left open