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and precarious possessions, that nothing but peace could recover to them their ascendancy in Asia : in such a situation, it was impossible to procure terms of accommodation more honourable. The removal of the restraints relative to the harbour of Dunkirk-restraints is graceful to France, and of trifling advantage to England, was inveighed against without Candor or reason. Dunkirk, as a port, was, as his lordship asserted, far from possessing the consequence attached to it: it lies near a shoaly part of the channel; it cannot receive ships of a large size, and can never be a rendezvous for squadrons : it may indeed be'a resort for privateers, but these we know by experience could easily issue from other ports. In fine, the confederacy formed against us was decidedly superior to our utmost exertions; our taxes were exorbitant; our debts, funded and unfunded, amounted to two hundred and forty seven millions ; our commerce was rapidly declining ; our navy was overbalanced by the fleets of the combined powers, in the alarming proportion of more than fifty ships of the line. Peace was in these circumstances necessary to our existence as a nation. The best terms of accommodation, which our situation would ad. mit, had been procured; and his lordship ventured to affirm, that they could be decried or opposed only by ignorance, prejudice, or faction.
On a division, the address was carried by a majority of
72 to 59 voices.
SPEECH OF DR. SHIPLEY, BISHOP OP ST. ASAPH,
IN SUPPORT OF THE BILL FOR ENLARGING THE TOLERATION ACT, IN THE SESSION OF 1779.
THE indulgence shewn to the Roman Catholics in the preceding session made the refusal of former claims of the Protestant Dissenters appear so invidious, that it was judged improper any longer to discourage an application for their relief; and on the motion of Sir HENRY HOUGHTON, seconded by Mr. FREDERIC MONTAGUE, a bill for that purpose was brought in, and passed through both Houses with very little opposition. The debate in the Lords was rendered memorable by the following speech of Doctor SHIPLEY:
This reverend prelate expressed his most cordial acquiescence in the repeal of those penal laws which had long been the disgrace of the national church: he objected only to the condition annexed to the repeal, the IMPOSITION of a confession of faith, however short, and general, and true, such as he hoped he should have the virtue, if called upon, to seal with his blood. But his lordship absolutely disclaimed for himself any authority civil or sacred to impose this creed upon other men. By such imposition the present bill, which professes to repeal all former penal laws, is converted into a penal law itself; for those, who do not subscribe the declaration, still remain liable to all the old penalties. The truth contained in the declaration, viz. “ That the Scriptures are the revealed will of God, and the rule of faith and practice,” was indeed acknowledged by every protestant. But supposing the existence of any set of Christians who should reject our canon of scripture, who should build their faith on the basis of tradition, or on the supposed illuminations of the spirit, would you, my lords, persecute them for believing Christianity upon arguments that suit their own understandings ? Such men would undoubtedly be in error, but error in religion is the very ground and subject of toleration. The evils resulting from this declaration are not however confined to possibilities. Many of the most eminent of the dissenting ministers-men highly deserving esteem for their science, their literature, their critical study of the Scriptures, for their excellent writings in defence of Christianity, as well as of the civil, and religious rights of mankind-men, whom it would be no disparagement to this Bench to acknowledge as friends and brethren, engaged in the same honorable and arduous task of instructing the world in the ways of happinessm-such men as these, my lords, if the clause in question be enacted and carried into execution, will not even be tolerated. Declaring, as they have invariably done, against all human authority in matters of religion, and holding it as a first principle of protestant. ism that no church has a right to impose its own articles of faith upon others, they conceive that an acquiescence in this declaration would imply a recognition of that claim which they are bound, as Christians, and protestants to resist. It is the duty of magistrates, it is indeed the very end of magistracy to protect all men in the enjoyment of their natural rights, of which the free exercise of their religion is one of the first and best. All history, my lords, is full of the mischiefs occasioned by the want of toleration ; but no one has ever yet pretended to shew, that any public evils have been occasioned by toleration. At a meeting of the Right Reverend Bench, where I had the honor to be present, it was asked, whether the clause in question was ever in. tended to be put in execution ? It was answered, Nothere was no such intention. I asked then, and I ask now, What was the use of making laws that were never to be executed ? To make useless and insignificant laws is not to exercise authority, but to degrade it: it is a vain, idle, and insolent parade of legislation; and yet, my lords, would to God! the four last shameful and miserable years had been employed in making such laws as these : this wretched country might still have been safe, and perhaps once more might have been happy. But, my lords, let us for a moment consider to whom this power of prescribing articles of faith is to be confided : undoubtedly this holy deposit cannot fail to be lodged, where we have placed every thing else that is great, and good: the honor, the interest, the strength, and revenues of the nation, All are placed in the keeping of the ministry. Perhaps, my lords, there might be ministers to whose management none, who have the least value for their religion, would choose to confide it. One might naturally ask a minister for a good pension, or a good contrat, or a place at court; but hardly any one would think of making interest with him for a place in
What I now say applies only to future bad ministers, for of the present administration I most firmly believe that they are fully as capable of defining articles
of faith as of directing the councils of the state. The ruling party is always very liberal in bestowing the title of shismatic and heretic on those who differ from them in religion, and in representing them as dangerous to the state. My lords, the contrary is the truth. Those who are uppermost and have the power, are the men who do the mischief, while the shismatics only suffer and complain. Ask who has brought the aitairs of this country into the present calamitous state? Who are the men that have plundered and depopulated Bengal? Who are they that have turned a whole continent, inhabited by friends and kindred, into our hitterest enemies? Yes, they who have shorn the strength, and cut off the right arm of Britain, were all members of the ESTABLISHED CHURCH, all orthodox men. I am not afraid of those tender and scrupulous consciences who are over cautious of professing or believing too much: if they are sincerely in the wrong, I forgive their errors, and respect their integrity. The men I am afraid of are the men who believe every thing, who subscribe every thing, and who vote for every thing,
On the 28th of March 1787, Mr. BEAUFOY brought forward a motion for amending, and in part repealing the Corporation and Test Acts. His speech on the occasion was much admired for its modesty, as well. as its argumentative force and eloquence.
“ I am sensible,” said he, “ Mr. Speaker, that in a business so important as that upon which we are this day assembled, it might have been expected that the large proportion of the inhabitants of this kingdom, who are now by my voice suitors to the House, would have been more studious of experience and ability in their advocate. It
may naturally excite surprize, that in a cause which 50 deeply concerns their interests and their honor, they