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developed in despotisms, is confined to no forms of government. It is the chief peril of free states, the natural enemy of free institutions. It agitates our own country, and still throws an uncertainty over the great experiment we are making here in behalf of liberty. We will try then, in a few words, to expose its influences and dangers, and to abate that zeal with which a participation in office and power is sought among ourselves.
It is the distinction of republican institutions, that whilst they compel the passion for power to moderate its pretensions, and to satisfy itself with more limited gratifications, they tend to spread it more widely through the community, and to make it a universal principle. The doors of office being opened to all, crowds burn to rush in. A thousand hands are stretched out to grasp the reins which are denied to none. Perhaps in this boasted and boasting land of liberty, not a few, if called to state the chief good of a republic, would place it in this, that every man is eligible to every office, and that the highest places of power and trust are prizes for universal competition. The superiority attributed by many to our institutions, is, not that they secure the greatest freedom, but give every man a chance of ruling; not that they reduce the power of government within the narrowest limits which the safety of the state admits, but throw it into as many hands as possible. The despot's great crime is thought to be, that he keeps the delight of dominion to himself, that he makes a monopoly of it, whilst our more generous institutions, by breaking it into parcels, and inviting the multitude to scramble for it, spread this joy more widely. The result is, that political ambition infects our country, and generates a feverish restlessness and discontent, which, to the monarchist, may seem more than a balance for our forms of liberty. The spirit of intrigue, which in absolute governments is confined to courts, walks abroad through the land; and as individuals can accomplish no political purposes single handed, they band themselves into parties, ostensibly framed for public ends, but aiming only at the acquisition of power. The nominal sovereign, that is, the people, like all other sovereigns, is courted and flattered, and told that it can do no wrong. Its pride is pampered, its passions inflamed, its prejudices made inveterate. Such are the processes by which other republics have been subverted, and he must be blind who cannot trace them among ourselves. We mean not to exaggerate our dangers. We rejoice to know, that the improvements of society oppose many checks to the love of power. wise man, who sees its workings, must dread it as our chief foe.
This passion derives strength and vehemence in our country, from the common idea, that political power is the highest prize which society has to offer. We know not a more general delusion, nor is it the least dangerous. Instilled, as it is, in our youth, it gives infinite excitement to political ambition. It turns the active talent of the country, to public station as the supreme good, and makes it restless, intriguing, and unprincipled. It calls out hosts of selfish competitors for comparatively few places, and encourages a bold, unblushing pursuit of personal elevation, which a just moral sense and self-respect in the community would frown upon
and cover with shame. This prejudice has come down from past ages, and is one of their worst bequests. To govern others has always been thought the highest function on earth. We have a remarkable proof of the strength and pernicious influence of this persuasion, in the manner in which history has been written. Who fill the page of history? Political and military leaders, who have lived for one end, to subdue and govern their fellow beings. These occupy the foreground; and the people, the human race, dwindle into insignificance, and are almost lost behind their masters. The proper and noblest object of history, is, to record the vicissitudes of society, its spirit in different ages, the causes which have determined its progress and decline, and especially the manifestation and growth of its highest attributes and interests, of intelligence, of the religious principle, of moral sentiment, of the elegant and useful arts, of the triumphs of man over nature and himself. Instead of this, we have records of men in power, often weak, oftener wicked, who did little or nothing for the advancement of their age, who were in no sense its representatives, whom the accident of birth perhaps raised to influence. We have the quarrels of courtiers, the intrigues of cabinets, sieges and battles, royal births and deaths, and the secrets of a palace, that sink of lewdness and corruption. These are the staples of history. The inventions of printing, of gunpowder, and the mariner's compass, were too mean affairs for history to trace. She was bowing before kings and warriors. She had volumes for the plots and quarrels of Leicester and Essex, in the reign of Elizabeth, but not a page for Shakspeare; and if Bacon had not filled an office, she would hardly have recorded his name, in her anxiety to preserve the deeds and sayings of that Solomon of his age, James the First.
(To be Continued.)
THE CHRISTIAN PIONEER.
Glasgow, September 1, 1828.
The Annual Meeting of the Presbyterian and Unitarian Ministers of Lancashire and Cheshire, was held in Liverpool, on the 19th June. About thirty Ministers were present. The sermon was preached by the Rev. J. Whitehead of Cockey Moor. Among the Resolutions passed at this meeting, the following was unanimously adopted:
“ That the Members of this Association are at the same time anxious to record their desire, to see their Roman Catholic fellowsubjects in full possession of the same civil rights which they themselves enjoy."
This being the first public meeting of the Unitarians of the two counties, subsequent to the Repeal of the Test
and Corporation Acts, it was judged proper to make it a more open assembly than usual
, and the friends of religious freedom of all denominations were invited to attend. A numerous company, there being upwards of one hundred and sixty gentlemen, sat down to dinner, and the Rev. W. SHEPHERD, of Gateacre, presided. The whole proceedings were worthy of the occasion. Our readers will be gratified, we are persuaded, by the Chairman's speech:
“ The time is now come, when it is my pleasant duty to direct your attention to the joyful occasion which has swelled the ordinary Meeting of the Presbyterian Ministers of Lancashire and Cheshire, and their immediate friends, into the numerous, the respectable, and, I am happy to add, in reference to religious faith, the miscellaneous assembly which I have now the honour to address. Gentlemen, I call this a joyful occasion; for we are met to celebrate the repeal of those obnoxious statutes, which for a long series of years, fixed upon the Protestant Dissenters of England, a stigma which they were conscious that they did not deserve, Gentlemen, I call it a stigma. For, by the spirit of those statutes, it was virtually declared, that we were unworthy of the favour of our sovereign,—that our gentry were so tainted and infected with evil principles, that it was dangerous to admit them to the exercise of that civil authority, for which they were qualified by their education, their property, and their talents. By the spirit of those statutes, no exciseman was allowed to fathom the depths of a barrel of beer, unless he had previously fathomed the depths of the thirty-nine articles! By the spirit of those acts, it was proclaimed, that we were all of us unfitted for a participation in the management of the affairs of the most petty corporation in the kingdom! Thus, while we were called upon to take our full share in bearing the burdens of the state, we were prohibited from seeking after its emoluments, and, what galled our feelings still more, we were forbidden to aspire to its distinctions and its honours, Gentlemen, if I may judge of the feelings of others from my own, I cannot say, in truth and honesty, that by the operation of these statutes the Protestant Dissenters of England were humiliated; for, in point of fact, no one is humiliated except by his own wrong doing, and his own misconduct. In the eye of reason, disgrace attaches itself, not to the persecuted, but to the persecutor-not to the man who is proscribed, but to the man who proscribes whole classes of his fellow-citizens without a just and adequate ious statutes are repealed—the stigma is removed, and the Protestant Dissenter can now mingle in the affairs of the world, and take his natural station in the ranks of society, in the satisfactory assurance, that, in the eye of the law, he stands on a level with his fellow-subjects of the established faith. At the same time, gentlemen, I must remark, that the circumstances in which we stand, though they justify the heartiness, by no means call for the insolence of triumph. That extravagant exultation, on the gaining of a political point, which is calculated to give offence, arises from a pertinaciousness of opposition which we have not met with on the late occasion, from the influential statesmen of the present day, or from the great body of the members of the Church of England. The main subject of our rejoicing, is this, that the general diffusion of solid and useful knowledge, and the advantage of experience, have so beaten down and subdued inveterate prejudices, that when our case came to be debated in Parliament, it was there discussed with temperance, coolness, and moderation. Hence, it happened, that on the first division on our question in the House of Commons, we were favoured with so great a majority, that the most sceptical of our opponents were convinced that the time for concession was now come, and the repeal was carried with an ease and an approach to unanimity, by no means to have been antecedently expected on so momentous a question. Thus, gentlemen, the Corporation and Test Acts are dead and buried; and on the last melancholy occasion, John Lord Eldon acted as chief mourner. Gentlemen, I promise you, that I will not slide into the habits of my profession, and proceed to preach their funeral sermon. Discourses of this kind are very tickle and delicate matters, when we have nothing good to say of the defunct. I once, indeed, posseessed a volume of sermons preached by an ancient divine, on the occasions of the death of the wicked people of his congregation, and I am sorry to observe, gentlemen, that this volume was rather a bulky one. On its perusal, however, I did not find any thing which would induce me to imitate the example of this venerable pastor on the present occasion. Recurring, however, to the birth of these acts, I must remind you, that they were passed in critical and turbulent times, and that the Test Act in particular, was supported by many Dissenters, who, at the time of its enactment, were members of the House of Commons. Gentlemen, in my humble opinion, so far as these individuals were influenced by a dread of arbitrary power, in the prospect of a tyrannical successor to the throne, they acted well. But human action is prompted by mixed motives, and in so far as these individuals were prompted by a bigotted prejudice against the Roman Catholic religion, as a system of faith, I think they acted extremely wrong.
When a man is followed by reproach and obloquy, which he is conscious that he does not merit, he redresses himself by entertaining sentiments of honest pride, in the internal persuasion that he deserves better treatment than he receives. I repeat, then, the sentiment. I cannot say that by these acts we were humiliated. But this I will say, that by their operation we were rendered uneasy and uncomfortable that we were aggrieved and injured. But this state of things is happily past. The obnox
And if wrong they did, the punishment followed hard-upon the offence, and continued for a long time. In this instance, the sins of the fathers were visited upon the children, in the shape of civil disqualifications, to the third and fourth generation. It is an easy matter, gentlemen, to get into a net, but it is difficult to get out of it. Permit me to remind you, that the great and enlightened advocate of religious freedom, William the Third, though he ear
nestly wished it, was unable to extend relief to our ancestors, even in the plenitude of his power; and many of you remember, how often, during the last reign, our question was agitated in the House of Commons, but agitated without success. Gentlemen, it was my fortune in the year 1789, to be present in the House of Commons, when, on the motion of Mr. Beaufoy, for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, Mr. Fox rose to speak on our behalf. And never, gentlemen, shall I forget that honest countenance of his, on which the Almighty had imprinted, in the most legible characters, the index of that union of the brightest intellect, with the most engaging benevolence which characterised that illustrious and amiable man. At the commencement of his speech, his utterance seemed to be embarrassed by the intensity of his feelings, and the abundance of his matter. But he soon proceeded with a connected rapidity and energy of eloquence, which seemed to sweep away every objection in its impetuous course. He was answered by Mr. Pitt, in an elegant and measured flow of diction, in which every word seemed to stand in its proper place. On that occasion, the sophistry of the minister was victorious, and we lost the question by a majority of 20. In the ensuing year, 1790, the Dissenters renewed their application to Parliament, under the auspices of Mr. Fox. But the event proved, that, in this renewal, they had not acted wisely—that they had not observed, with due sagacity, the signs of the times. The progress of the French revolution had then alarmed the aristocracy of this country with the dread of innovation. Mr. Burke rushed into the conflict, and summoned from the lowest deep the demons of bigotry and religious discord, and his infuriated eloquence falling in with the spirit of the day, he wrought such an effect upon his audience, that the majority against us was swelled from 20 to 180.
“ By this signal defeat the Dissenters were astounded, and remained in a state of quietude for 37 years; and lo and behold, when at length we began to stir, this quietude was brought as an argument against us! For when, in my capacity of chairman of a meeting of the Unitarian Dissenters of this town and neighbourhood, last spring but one, I addressed, through the medium of our secretary, a letter to the unfortunate Mr. Huskisson, requesting him to support the petition which we were sending to Parliament, praying for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts, our representative was pleased to reply, that, as we had been tranquil so long, he conceived that our grievances were rather imaginary than real. Gentlemen, I lost no time in replying to Mr. Huskisson, that, if Providence spared my life and health, I would take care that the Dissenters of Lancashire should never again be reproached with the crime of peace and quietness. For our excitation from this state of apparent apathy, we are mainly indebted to a gentleman whose solid abilities and transcendant personal worth, are united with a suavity of mạnners, and a retiring modesty of demeanour, which prevent his merits from being displayed in their full light. I allude to Mr. John Smith, the member for Midhurst. Being in London last Christmas but one, I was informed by a friend, that Mr. Smith felt strongly for the situation of the Pro