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tain that he was not wrong in fo doing. But he hoped that no perfon would thence infer, either that he was a friend to democracy, or approved of the exceffes which had been committed in France. With refpect to the former point, he declared himself equally the enemy of all abfolute forms of government, whether an abfolute monarchy, an abfolute ariftocracy, or an abfolute democracy, and approved only of a mixed government, like our own. But though he fhould never lend himfelf to fupport any cabal or fcheme, formed in order to introduce dangerous innovations into our excellent conflitation; he would not, however, run the length of declaring, that he was an enemy to every fpecies of innovation, becaufe that conftitution, which we all revered, owed its perfection to innovation. He differed greatly from Mr. Burke in his opinion of the revolution of 1688, in which he conceived that many innovations had taken place, and he thought that cafe was certainly more parallel to the revolution in France than his right honourable friend feemed willing to allow. With regard to the fcenes of bloodshed and cruelty which had been afted in France, no man could have heard of them without lamenting them; bat fill when the fevere tyranny, under which that people had fo long groaned, was confidered, the exceffes which they committed,, in their endeavour to thake off the yoke of defpotifm, might, he thought, be fpoken of with fome degree of compaflion; and he was perfuaded that, unfettled as their prefent ilate appeared, it was preferable to their former condition, and that ultimately it would be for the advantage of that country.
After a fhort explanation from Mr. Burke, Mr. Sheridan rofe and faid, that the very reafons which Mr. Burke had given for expreffing the sentiments, which he had that day uttered, namely, an apprehension of being fuppofed to acquiefce in the opinions of thofe, for whom he entertained the higheft regard and with whom he had uniformly acted, operated alfo on his mind, and made him feel it a duty to declare, that he differed decidedly from that right honourable gentleman in almoft every word that he had uttered refpecting the French revolution. Mr. Sheridan added fome warm compliments to Mr. Burke's general principles; but faid, that he could not conceive how it was poffible for a perfon of fuch principles, or for any man who valued our own conftitution, and revered the revolution that obtained it for us, to unite with fuch feelings an indignant and unqualified abhorrence of all the proceedings of the patriotic party in France.
He conceived, he faid, theirs to be as juft a revolution as ours, proceeding upon as found a principle and a greater provocation, and vehemently defended the general views and conduct of the national affembly. He joined with Mr. Burke in abhorring the cruelties that had been committed; but what, he said, was the awful leffon that was to be gathered from the outrages of the populace? What, but an abhorrence of that accurfed fyftem of defpotic government, which fets an example of depravity to the flaves it rules over and if a day of power comes to the wretched populace, is it to be wondered at, however it is to be regretted, that they act without any of thofe feelings of juftice or humanity,
this country, and established, on a permanent bafis, thofe facred principles of government, and reverence for the rights of men, which he, for one, could not value here, without wifhing to fee them diffused throughout the world.
Mr. Burke made a fhort reply to Mr. Sheria., after which Mr. Pitt and feveral other members exprefled their concurrence with Mr. Burke in the fentiments he had delivered, and their fenie of the obligation he had conferred upon his country by the part he had that day taken.
The estimates delivered in for the fervice of the army and ordnance, were then voted by the house without alteration.
manity, which the principles and practice of the governors had ftripped them of?
Mr. Sheridan went into feveral other topics refpecting the French revolution, and charged Mr. Burke with being an advocate for delpotifm, and with having fpoken of the national affembly with an unwarrantable freedom of speech.
After paying fome high compliments to the marquis de la Fayette, monfieur Baily, and others of the French patriots, Mr. Sheridan concluded, with expreffing a farther difference with Mr. Burke with refpect to our own revolution of 1688, He had ever been accustomed to confider it as the glorious æra that gave real and efficient freedom to
CHA P. IV.
The diffenters encouraged, by the fmall majority by which the motion for the repeal of the teft and corporation act was rejected the left feffion, to renew their application. Steps taken by them to fupport it. Alarm of the friends of the established church. Mr. Fox's speech upon moving for the repeal. His general principles of toleration. His opinion of the impolicy and injuftice of the test laws. Argues from the merits of the diffenters. Urges the example of France. Cenfures the conduct of the bishop of St. David's. Concludes · with declaring his determination to support the question he had brought forward upon every future occafion. Motion oppofed by Mr. Pitt. He objects to its extent, and the principles on which it was fupported. Is of opinion it might affect the fecurity of the church. He confiders the test acts as proper reftraints on the prerogative of the crown. Animadverts on the attempts of the diffenters to influence members of parliament. Thinks it would be dengerous to trust them with power. And that tefts, the feverity of which could be occafionally mitigated, were neceffary to enable government to ward of danger in cafes of neceffity. Mr. Burke concurs with Mr. Fox in his principles of toleration; but thinks the diffenters, at the prefent moment, not intitled to indulgence. Charges them with factious and dangerous practices, and reads various papers in fupport of his charge. Suggests the propriety of a new teft, and of a committee to enquire into their recent conduct. Mr. Fox's motion rejected by a majority of 294 to 105. Motion by Mr. Flood for a reform in parliament. States the inadequacy of the prefent mode of reprefentation. Propofes one hundred additional members to be chofen by refident housekeepers. His arguments to prove the neceffity of a reform. Anfwers obiections. The motion oppofed by Mr. Wyndham. He afferts that
the house of commons, as at prefent conftituted, is adequate for all beneficial purposes. Anfwers the objections relative to the American war. Deprecates innovations founded upon theories. Objects to the time as dangerous. Mr. Pitt objects to the motion as ill-timed. Sir James Johnstone's objections. Mr. Fox fupports the motion, and answers the objection of its being illtimed. Mr. Burke in reply. Other Speakers on both fides the question. The motion agreed to be withdrawn.
HE very small majority by which Mr. Beaufoy's motion for the relief of proteftant diffenters had been rejected laft year*, juftified the perfeverance of that body in renewing their application to parliament, and could not fail of giving them fanguine hopes of fuccefs. Another application was immediately determined upon, to be made in the prefent feffions, and the interval was employed, with indefatigable induftry, in making every poffible exertion to fortify their cause, both by general appeals to the people, and by an active canvas of individual members of parliament. The circumftance of an approaching general election was alfo thought favourable to their attempt, on account of their great weight and influence in many counties and corporations, and their avowed determination to exert them, on the enfuing occafion, in the fupport of fuch candidates only, as were known, or fhould promife, to be their fupporters. At the fame time it appears, that they wished to confolidate with their own, the intereft of the Roman catholic diffenters, and probably expected, that they fhould derive fome acceffion of ftrength from that quarter, by extending their application fo as to include in it the members of that perfuafion. Their caufe, thus promifing and thus fupported, it was refolved to entrust, in the house of commons, to the zeal and talents of Mr. Fox.
On the other hand, the friends of the established church, alarmed by the activity and confidence of their opponents, exhibited fome fymptoms of vigour in preparing for its defence. Appeals were anfwered by appeals, and in one inftance, at least, an eminent preiate of the church was found to have used his influence amongst his clergy in oppofition to a parliamentary candidate,exprefsly on account of his having voted for the repeal of the corporation and test acts. But what contributed most especially to prejudice the public mind against the claims of the diffenters, was the violence with which fome of their leaders engaged in the politics of the times, their known correfpondence with France, and their open avowal, that the repeal of the offenfive act was not fought for as their main object, but as a step towards a total demolition of all church establishments. Even fome of the moit moderate and moft refpectable of their own party, alarmed or difgufted at the fpirit of their proceedings, refufed to concur in the proposed application.
On Tuesday the fecond of March, Mr. Fox, agreeably to the notice he had given, brought the fubject before the houfe of commons, which was one of the fulleft that had been for fome time affembled. He began his fpeech with obferving, that he had not obtruded himfelf upon the occafion, but that he came forward at the exprefs with and folici
* See Annual Regifter for the year 1789, page 148.
tation of the perfons moft interefted in the fuccefs of the motion he was about to make: that it was a fubject of fome triumph and exultation to him, to fee thofe men, who on former occafions had acted with the most violent hoftility towards him, defirous, notwithstanding, of entrufting their dearest interests to him.
been to exclude anti-monarchical men from civil offices; but he would ever reprobate fuch a procedure; it was acting under falfe pretences; its tendency led to hypocrify, and ferved as a restraint upon the good and confcientious only. Instead of a formal and direct oath of allegiance, there was an indirect, politi cal teft reforted to, by means of a religious teft; although the obligation of all direct political tests had been juftly exploded by the practice of the country. Why not have propofed a monarchical teft at once! It would have answered the end b far more effectually than the prefent teft; for the teft now given welt only to guefs at a man's opinior: it might admit thofe whofe politial fentiments might be inimical to the conftitution, while it operated drectly against others who were mongst its ftaunchest friends. Wih refpect to the church, he ridiculd the opinion, that it might be endal gered by the repeal of the acts, s of all others the most unfounded and abfurd. The only danger that the church had to apprehend, was fron the fupine indolence of the clergy, and the fuperior activity and zeal f the diffenters in the difcharge of the duties of their facred functions.
The argument which Mr. Fox chiefly laboured to establish was of this kind: that religious tefts were juftifiable only upon a fuppofition, that men who entertained certain fpeculative opinions, would be led by thofe opinions to commit actions. that were in themselves immoral and hurtful to fociety. Now it was unwarrantable, he contended, to infer a priori, and contrary to the profeffions and declarations of the perfons holding such opinions, that their opinions would produce acts injurious to the commonweal. To prefume to judge of other men's opinions, and to know the confequences of them better than themselves, was the constant practice, and was of the very effence, of perfecution. How little fpeculative opinions were, in fact, to be confidered as difqualifications for being admitted into civil employments, was evident from various inftances. Those who were the most ftrongly attached to the prefent conftitution of the house of commons, would not contend, that the duke of Richmond ought to be difqualified from being mafter-general of the ordnance, or Mr. Pitt from being first lord of the treasury, because they were of opinion that the prefent mode of reprefentation was defective and called for amendment. For the fame reafon, he did not fee why the church fhould be fuppofed to be in danger, though Dr. Priestley him felf were at the head of it. The object of the teft laws, at firft, had
Mr. Fox then argued from the merits of the diffenters, first hiftori cally; and then contended generally, that the political principles they were fuppofed to entertain were lefs inimical to the British conftitution, than thofe of the high churchmen.
With refpect to French politics, he did not fee what the prefent queftion had to do with them. He reprobated the injuftice of imputing to any body of men the exceptionable conduct of a few individuals amongst them, and contended, that his motion ought to be decided upon general
general principles. Yet he faw no reafon but the example of France ought to have its influence; the church there was now fuffering for its former intolerance. However he might rejoice in the emancipation of near thirty millions of his fellow-creatures, and in the fpirit which gave rife to the revolution; yet he was free to own there were fome acts of the new government which he could not applaud. The fummary and indifcriminate forfeiture of the property of the church came under this defcription. But the violence of this proceeding might, in feme measure, be attributed to ferm-for the well governing and reguei ecclefiaftical oppreffions; and, in «lating corporations, &c." and the particular, to the impolitic revoca- act of the 25th of Charles II. "for tin of the edict of Nantes. Before that period, there exifled no teft in Fance; proteftants and catholics wire indifcriminately admitted into cil and military offices: but by that rash meafure, liberality and toleation were thrown away; the ats and manufactures were driven ino other countries, to flourish in a more genial foil, and under a milder fam of government. This fhould fave as a caution to the church of England; perfecution may prevail for a time, but it generally terminutes in the punishment of its abet
preventing dangers which may "arife from popith recufants, &c." having been previously read at the table, Mr. Fox moved, That this houfe will immediately refolve itself into a committee of the whole houfe, to confider of fo much of the faid acts as requires perfons, before they are admitted to any office, civil or military, or any place of truft under the crown, to receive the facrament of the Lord's fupper according to the rites of the church of England,"
After animadverting upon the conduct of the bishop of St. David's, who had, about that time, fent a circalar letter to the clergy of his diocefe, difluading them, in the ftrongeft terms, from giving their votes for a certain member of the houfe of commons, on account of his having fupported the petition of the diffenters,, and thereby attempted to overthrow our ecclefiaftical conflitution; Mr. Fox concluded an able, temperate, and judicious fpeech, by declaring, that he was fufficiently aware of the
unpopularity of the cause he had undertaken; that he knew that fome of the perfons, whom he moit valued and refpected, differed with him in opinion upon the subject; that he' had no particular connexion with the parties, who confidered themfelves as aggrieved, but, on the contrary, that they had been amongst his moft violent political enemies; but regarding their caufe as the caufe of truth and liberty, he fhould give it his warmneft fupport both upon the prefent and on every future occafion.
The act of the 13th of Charles II.
The motion was feconded by Sir Henry Hoghton, and oppofed in a long and able speech by Mr. Pitt. He began by expreffing his obligations to Mr. Fox for his clear and candid ftatement of the precife object of the diffenters in their prefent application, and of the full extent to which his motion was intended to be carried. Whatever doubts he might before have entertained relative to the expediency of admitting any alteration in the acts, which had been read, he certainly could not hefitate a moment in oppofing their direct and total abolition.