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ment a just line was drawn, to the relief of conscience, on the one hand, and for the safety of the church, on the other. The Test act was the corner-stone of the constitution, which should have every preservation. King JAMES, when he wished to gain the Prince and Princess of ORANGE to his views, desired to have their opinion on the propriety of repealing the Test and Corporation acts. The answer of the Prince of ORANGE was, that he agreed to the removal of the Corporation act, but not of the Test act; and he declared it to be the practice of Holland to confine all civil employments to those who professed the principles of the state ; but that the army could not be so restrained, on account of the want of troops. Nothing brought James so speedily to the crisis of his fate as the Test act, which restrained him, and rendered it impossible for him to fill all offices civil and military with those of his own sect; which he hoped to be enabled to do by gaining the repeal of the Test act; and then there would have been an end to all li. berty. Tyranny would have stolen silently on, until it had been so deeply rooted, as to render all endeavours against it vain.
“ I conceive it to be the duty of every member of this House to prevent that which may, in a future period, subject the nation to the same dangers which it has before experienced. If the Scots had any hardships, if .
, they had any grievances, they would have been ready enough to have laid complaints before the House ; and there are many gentlemen of that country in the House, who would be ready enough to state those complaints to the House, if any existed. The Union with Scotland I look upon as a most sacred compact, and which ought not to be touched with a rash hand. The church is established on a sacred basis, and those who wish for no
innovation on the Union, should guard against any attacks on the church. With respect to the clergy of the church being forced to give the sacrament to all who desire it; that so far from its being the wish of the clergy of England to gain a repeal of the Test act, they are all alarmed at the intention of proposing the repeal, and are determined to resist it with their greatest strength. Every minister is bound, by his holy office to refuse the communion to any unworthy person. If he refuses according to law, by law he will be justified: the fear of an action should not prevent a man from doing his duty : if he is right, where can be the fear of an action ? He will gain honor, and the person bringing the action will have a considerable expence and dishonor. The clergy are situated now in the same manner that they were before the Test act; they could then, and they may now, upon proof, refuse the administering the holy sacrament of the Lord's Supper to an unworthy or bad character. The sacrament is administered as a test of being well affected to the church. Some test is necessary, and must be taken. If the sacrament, in many instances, is taken unworthily, I fear that many false oaths are taken; and can that operate as a reason for the abolition of oaths, which in may cases are absolutely necessary ? The legis. lature is not to be answerable for the consequences of the sacrament being taken unworthily, or for false oaths; and if
other test could be devised to answer the same purposes, I would willingly adopt it. If the plea of birth-right is argued, on that ground may Catholics also claim admission. It hath been contended, that times have changed; that then a Papist was on the throne. Yes, thanks to heaven! they are changed; but may not they be changed again? It may be said, that now there is no danger of Jacobitism : the family is re
duced to two brothers, one of whom, being in priest's ore ders, can have no legitimate offspring, and the other-is very old. But there may be danger in breaking down the barrier which has hitherto guarded the constitution. We all know the perilous nature of a cry, the church is in danger, and an incendiary, watching his opportunity, may cause as great a tumult, and as much mischief by that cry, as by the cry of No Popery! Though we owe much to the Brunswick line, for the blessings of that liberty which we enjoy, much is also owing to the church for its pro. motion of harmony, by its submission to the government, and its liberal principles--principles which have encou. raged the bringing forward the present motion. We find no complaint of ecclesiastical tyranny, no church persecution ; let us not then confound toleration of religious principles with civil and military appointments. Univer. sal toleration is already established : let us be upon our guard against any innovation in the church : the constitution is always in danger, when the church is deprived of its rights."
Mr. Pitt expressed his perfect concurrence in the noble lord's arguments, which were combated by Mr. Fox with his usual eloquence and energy ; but the result was the rejection of Mr. Beaufor's motion by a majority of 178 to 100.
This, however, did not discourage Mr. Beaufor from returning to the charge two years after, [May 8, 1789] when he observed that the unalterable confidence which the Dissenters still continue to repose in the general disposition of the House to do justice to the injured, and to give relief to the oppressed, had induced them (and they trusted not without that temper, moderation, and respect, by which in all similar proceedings they had been invariably distinguished) to renew their application to
parliament. Upon this occasion they were perfectly con. vinced, how difficult it was even for the best and wisest of men to relinquish, on the evidence of a single debate, the prejudice which misinformation had led them to adopt; neither had they forgotten how frequently the legislature had granted the very requests, which causeless apprehensions had before induced them to refuse. In the present instance, they could not avoid flattering them. selves under the most earnest hope, that, whilst their merits as citizens was acknowledged, they might venture, without offence, a second time to solicit from the natural guardians of all descriptions of the people a candid and impartial hearing
Mr. BEAUFOY begged leave to remind the House, that, in their former application, the Dissenters, far from wishing by a multitude of petitions to display their numbers and political consequence in the state, had placed their whole reliance on a plea to which numbers gave no additional strength ; for they knew that to the ear of a British parliament the voice of justice ascends with as much effect from the few as from the many, from the feeble as the strong; that the same temper had marked their subsequent conduct; for however sensibly they felt the hardships of being subjected, though guiltless of offence, to such disabilities and such dishonor as few offences can deserve; yet they had not indulged in the language of complaint, neither had they sought the aid of political alliances, or endeavoured to avail themselves of party divisions. Much more elevated had been their line of conduct; for they had patiently waited the arrival of a period, in which the wisdom of a complete toleration should be generously acknowledged, and in which the experience of other nations should have proved,
that such a toleration would strengthen the interest of the established church, and so entirely destroy the bitterness of religious variance, that the state would afterwards be as little affected by that variance as by a difference in opinion in natural philosophy, or any other spe
' culative science. For his own part, Mr. BEAUFOY remarked, that whilst he described, with satisfaction, the temperate conduct of the Dissenters, he was perfectly aware that among them, as in all large societies, intemperate individuals might be found; but to throw upon the Dissenters, the blame resulting from the unauthorized language and unsanctioned asperities of such men, would be as absurd as to expect that in a large multitude no man of a peculiar cast of mind, who measured his opinions by a standard of his own, was not to be found. Such an imputation would prove as unjust, as a charge against the church of England of embracing and practically extending those principles of despotism, those maxims of civil thraldom, which particular clergymen have sometimes inculcated from the pulpit. “Who does not know," said Mr. BEAUFOY, “ that the settled maxims and fundamental axioms of the British constitution have been condemned by a higher authority in the church of England, than any which the Dissenters own? Yet what man is either so weak, or so wicked, as therefore to declare, that the church of England is hostile to the laws and constitution of her country? It is only by the tenor of their course, and general spirit of their conduct, that large societies can ever be justly tried and measured, whether as faithful and affectionate supporters of his Majesty's illustrious house; or as citizens zealously attached to the constitution; or as Protestants who in doubtful and difficult emergencies have proved themselves