Imatges de pÓgina

and me.

common thing for what appears to be profound and extensive wisdom to one man, to appear the extreme of folly to another; and unfortunately, owing perhaps to the difference of our education and early habits, this is precisely the difference between you

What you admire I despise; and what you

think highly useful, I am perfuaded is highly mischievous.” Now were The dispute in this a matter of mere personal variance bestituted by Dr. Prieitley upon tween Dr. Priestley, and Mr. Burke upon false grounds.

a point of controvertible matter, those, who might think it worth their while to take the point of difference under their consideration, would either decide upon it by the degree of deference and authority, which they would allow to the contesting parties, or by the internal merits and evidence of the question in dispute. But in the present case the question is, how far any one individual is authorised to oppose the folemn and formal act of the majority of the community. Mr. Burke has expressed the known and avowed sentiments of the majority of this community, who have for some centuries thought proper to apply a part of their power and authority, in fupporting that religious system, which was the result of their own free election. - Dr. Priestley on behalf of himself, and of some +


diffenters and sub-dissenters from this religious establishment, (though avowedly the minority of the community) not only sets up his own judgment in defiance and contradiction to the most folemn act of the majority, but he also treats it as an act of extreme folly and mischief.

As the legislative power does not attempt to subject the intellects of individuals to the propriety or rectitude of its acts, but only to ensure their external and peaceable submisfion to them when once enacted; the want the reasons and of reason, or even depravity of motive in legilators in enacting the laws, can never justify a public or external opposition or resistance against them. I do not precisely know the proportion, which the number of diffenters of all denominations in this country bears to that of the establishment; but for argument sake I will suppose, that three out of nine millions are diffenters: there will reinain fix millions, who certainly have individually as much right, and collectively more right to give civil sanction to their religion, than the three millions have to object against it. For by their making such an establishment, they do not enforce nor impose the belief of their religion upon the minds and consciences of individuals ; but prefuming, as the fact is,

I 3

• that

paiti' g laws, no justification of those who retist them.

that the adoption of religion is the free act of each of them, they agree to acknowledge and declare by a public civil act of that power, which is avowedly in them, that a particular religion is that, in the adoption of which the majority does concur.

And because the majority does thus concur in its adoption, they think proper to appropriate a certain

part of the national fund, of which they are the dispensers, to the maintenance and support of the ministers of this religion, and they invest them, according to their degrees, with certain civil or legal rights, benefits, and advantages; and in these alone confifts the civil establishment of a religion. In justice, however, to the majority of our community, who insist upon such an incorporation of an ecclesiastical with the civil establishment of the state, I cannot omit to lay before my readers some of the many reasons

and motives for such their determination. Reasons why * “ I assure you, I do not aim at singulaene community chufe to make rity. I give you opinions, which have been a civil establithment of reli.

accepted amongst us from very early times to this moment, with a continued and general approbation, and which indeed are so worked into my mind, that I am unable to

[ocr errors]


• Mr. Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, p. 147, 148,

distinguish distinguish what I have learned from others, from the results of my own meditation.

“ It is on such principles that the majority of the people of England, far from thinking a religious national establishment unlawful, hardly think it lawful to be without one. In France you are wholly mistaken, if you do not believe us above all other things attached to it, and beyond all other nations and when this people has acted unwisely and unjustifiably in its favour (as in some instances they have done most certainly) in their very errors you will at least discover their zeal.

“ This principle runs through the whole system of their polity. They do not consider their church establishment as convenient, but as essential to their state ; not as a thing heterogeneous and separable ; fomething added for accommodation; what they may either keep up or lay aside, according to their temporary ideas of convenience. They consider it as the foundation of their whole constitution, with which, and with every part of which, it holds an indiffoluble union. Church and state are ideas infeparable in their minds, and scarcely is the one ever mentioned without mentioning the other.”

I 4

I do

must conclude

I do not wish, much less do I undertake to prove, that Mr. Burke's reasons for thinking a religious establishment in our constitution profound and extensive wisdom, are stronger and more conclusive, than Dr. Priestley's are for thinking it the extreme of folly, and very 'mischievous. But I do contend, that considering Mr. Burke and Dr. Priestley as two individual members of the English community, each of them has an equal right to form his own mind upon this subject, as well as upon every other subject of legislation; and that very

same right does every other individual of the The majority

nine millions poffefs. It fuffices therefore, the whole,

that a majority of these nine millions chuse to have such a religious establishment; it is evi

dent, from what has been before said, that the reasons belets minority, though they should be actuated by convincing than the better reasons, will nevertheless be con

cluded by the act of the majority, though the latter should be influenced by the weaker reasons. This is a fundamental principle of fociety, and consequently of all civil govern

If it be once broken in upon, an irreparable breach will be immediately made in the constitution, that will ensure and accelerate the total diffolution 'cf government; for no human law can have force or efficacy

those of the minority.



« AnteriorContinua »