« PrécédentContinuer »
We now come to a more precise examination of the article before us, which is a lame defence of the Result of the Groton Council, which was reviewed in the Christian Examiner for March and April, 1827. There has been no small share of address, and what the world would call artifice, in the manner, in which this defence has been brought out. Our review of the Result of the Groton Council, professed to be an entire refutation of all the arguments in that elaborate and studied performance, which was in itself rather singular in its history and character. The Council adjourned for a long period, to enable a learned committee to prepare an able argument. The proceedings bear date in August, and yet that eminent work, as the Exclusive Christians affect to consider it, did not reach the public eye, till the succeeding winter, when it was pompously ushered into the world, and circulated with an overweening assumption of its superiority to all other arguments, and more especially to the miserable, drivelling reasoning of Chief Justice Parsons, Judge Sedgwick, and Chief Justice Parker and his learned associates, in a succession of cases, for fifteen years past, which had never before been impugned or assailed. In our review, the public will recollect, that we disproved many of the facts, on which the Groton Result was founded; we showed that its authors were entirely mistaken in their views of the history of the church in this State ; we demonstrated, that the churches of this State had never been considered as corporate bodies, and, of course, could not come within the proviso of the third article of the Bill of Rights, which gives to religious societies, or corporate bodies, the exclusive right to elect their teachers. Now, we ask, what is the course which these learned divines have taken to defend their attack on the Judiciary of this State?
Soon after the publication of our review, we were threatened with an overwhelming reply from the pen of the Great Guardian and Metropolitan of all New England. We were told, that he was busied in searching records, and was resolved to bring the whole weight of his most powerful mind, not upon us humble reviewers, but upon that miserable, inefficient man, Chief Justice Parsons, and upon his successors and associates, Chief Justice Parker and others such as Putnam, Jackson, and Wilde. We have waited with fearful suspense the execution of these threats. The dreadful blow, which, it appears, another hand is employed to inflict, was preceded by an annunciation, in a late Orthodox pamphlet, * that it was coming, and would prove decisive. * Review of a Pamphlet on the Trust Deed of the Hanover Church, p. 25, note. VOL. V.-NO. IV.
It has appeared. Parturiunt montes. After one year's delay, the Spirit of the Pilgrims appears, with what is in fact but a new edition of the Groton Result, without a single change of the argument, and without even an attempt to meet onż of the objections to that extraordinary production. Before we proceed to the consideration of the specious fallacies by which the Result of the Groton Council is attempted to be supported, let us give a history of the facts.
Some twelve or fifteen years since, the Rev. Mr Burr, of Sandwich, having been a Liberal preacher, and having taught his own parish to believe the doctrines which we now hold 10 be sound, saw fit to change his creed. We honor him for the frankness which induced him to avow his change of opinions. We hold his right to do so a sacred one, and though our opinion may be of little value to him, heterodox as he now esteems us, it gives us pleasure to bear witness to our early and intimate knowledge of his worth. But unhappily for bim, bis parish did not change their opinions as he did." They adhered to the exposition of the scriptures, which he had exposed to them. An unhappy schism took place, and by a regularly constituted tribunal, after the usages of the Pilgrim Fathers, he was dismissed from his charge. But a majority of his church adhered to him. The question came before the Court, the highest Court of the State. They were compelled to give a construction to that clause of the Constitution, which vests the power in the people, and they did decide, that Mr Burr was legally and constitutionally removed. The humble defender of the Groton Result, in the pages before us, calls this oppression, and intimates, in ferms easily understood, that the Judges, Parsons, Sedgwick, and Sewall, violated their solemn oaths of office-were guilty, in fact, of perjury, by making a decision in favor of their own religious opinions.
He does not apply it to the case of Mr Burr, it is true. The public services and the great exertions of Parsons, and his unrivalled fame, induced his party to delay this charge, till they could attack one, whom they thought more vulnerable. But whoever reads the Spirit of the Pilgrims, will readily perceive that the charge applies to all the decisions; for, if the others, who pronounced the early judgments, were pure and unbiassed, how can they have ground to say, that those who followed and sustained, as by law they were bound to sustain, the legal principles settled solemnly by their predecessors, were corrupt and wicked? That they do make such a charge against Chief Justice Parker, their language abundantly proves. They purposely select the Chief Justice Parker, though they well knew, that he only pronounced the unanimous opinion of the whole Court, consisting of Thacher, Wilde, Jackson, and Putnam. The Chief Justice is charged with being influenced in his solemn opinion, under oath, by his personal religious notions—with a wicked and unjust decision, oppressive to the churches, and destructive of their rights. He is moreover charged with plagiarism, with adopting the opinions and even language of an article in the Christian Disciple, on the same topic, as if that gifted magistrate had not resources in his own mind, far greater than those from whom it is pretended he borrowed. This, we affirm, is the substance and intent of the writer's allusion to that article. Though this charge, we are assured, will prove harmless, yet we cannot pass it by, without remarking, that we know something of this venerable magistrate. We have known bim from his youth. Under the blessing of Divine Providence, he has been the artificer of his own standing and character. He had no powerful friends to protect him in youth. He has risen to his present high and honorable eminence, by his own unaided talents and virtues. He is, more eminently than any man in the State, the favored child of the people--of all the people, the illiterate and the learned the
rich and the poor.
Chief Justice Parker has, however, one consolation, of which the spirit of religious arrogance cannot deprive him. He shares with Washington, the elder Adams, and Jay, the fate which too often awaits a conscientious discharge of public duty. He should remember, that the same set of men, who attempted to blast the 'unsullied reputation of his illustrious predecessor, Chief Justice Parsons, by a posthumous calumny, have directed their attack against himself. He could hardly expect to escape censure, when that ornament of his profession and of his country, was charged with prostituting his great powers, and violating his oath of office in a judicial decision. Such a charge was made against that eminent man by the authors of the Groton Result. In our review of that hardy production, we challenged the author, or authors of it, to produce any evidence of its truth. The charge was this ;-that Chief Justice Parsons declared, that the construction, which be, personally, put upon the proviso of the third article of the Bill of Rights, was one, whic! he knew the people would have rejected. In other words, he gave a construction to a most important clause of the Constitution, diametrically opposed to its obvious meaning, and to the sense in which the people understood it. The charge involved, necessarily, judicial corruption, and a hardened, as well as foolish avowal of it. The author of the present work neither disowns the calumny, nor attempts to support it by proof. What are we to infer, that these reverend assailants of the character of one of the highest coordinate branches of the government, hope to screen themselves by employing the pen of another? Or do they believe, that their clerical character, and the sacredness of their cause, will justify their departure from the laws of society, and relieve them of the responsibility which is attached to other citizens ? Or did they hope to escape from public censure, because they stated this calumnious charge as a matter of tradition?' Let them consult their legal advisers, and they will tell them, that to say that there is a tradition' that a man defrauded his friend, or murdered his wife, is as punishable as a positive assertion of it.
Our reverend critics of the decisions of our highest tribunals, were fully aware, in their new edition by another hand, that they would be charged with an indecent attack upon the Judiciary. Their consciences were alarmed, and they attempted to parry the attack, by what, we are reluctantly compelled to say, are mere hollow and hypocritical compliments to the court whom they traduced. These are strong expressions, extorted from us with great pain to ourselves. Yet we owe something to our laws, and Constitution—something to the eminent men, who are deputed to administer them.
Now, as this vindicator of the rights of the churches has resorted to juxtaposition, and enumeration, in order to present in a stronger light, what he is pleased to call the selfcontradictions of Chief Justice Parker, we beg leave to present to our readers, in a condensed form, the contradictions of the vindicator. We think that the most candid will admit, that, if such contradictions had appeared in the writings of one of the world, or an unconverted sinner,'-a saint' would have had no hesitation in pronouncing the subsequent eulogy of Judge Parker to be mere cant, intended to soften the just indignation of the public.
It is the more remarkable that Chief Justice Parker should hazard the assertions he has made on this subject, since the distinction between church and town is erpressly recognized in the grants to the church in Dedham.'-Yet the Judge would have us believe, that, in the early settlement of our country, “there was no great distinction between the church and the town," and that “a grant to the church, under such circumstances, could mean nothing else than a grant to the town.”!!'
Here is an implied charge of wilful falsehood on the part of Chief Justice Parker, which, by the double notes of admiration affixed, appears to have excited the surprise and horror of the vindicator.
"The learned Judge will pardon us, if we think these subjects not a little out of his professional sphere. To be sure, as a man, he has the same right as any other man,'—a wonderful concession for one of the Exclusive sect, who virtually deny to all other men, the right of private judgment,' to form his opinions, and to express them, on all religious subjects; but, as the highest judicial officer in the Commonwealth, sitting on the bench of justice, and acting the part, not only of a Judge, but, in some sense, also of a legislator, we really think he may better leave disputed points in theology to be determined in their proper place. pp. 38, 39.
* In such utter confusion and uncertainty does the doctrine of the late decisions involve the ecclesiastical concerns of this whole community.' p. 41.
• The author of the decision in the Dedham case, is often inconsistent with himself. p. 43.
The latter expressions are Italicized by the vindicator. Again ;
If any person skilled in law, or in anything else, will analyze the following sentence, reconcile its different members, and make sense of the whole, we will be,“meaning shall be,' very much obliged to him.' p. 44.
Yet of this weak, inconsistent, meddling magistrate, the vindicator, having the fear of public wrath before his eyes, thus speaks ;
“We have only to say further, that nothing here written is to be interpreted as impeaching the professional ability of the Supreme Judges of this Commonwealth. We believe them all, and the Chief Justice especially, to be men of talents, of learning, and of general good qualifications for the stations they occupy.' p. 47.
Now we ask, if the Judges do possess all these requisite qualities, and, these notwithstanding, have made so oppressive, absurd, inconsistent, and unconstitutional a decision, as this learned writer attempts to show they have done, what can we inser, but that they are corrupt, and therefore that his compliments are hypocritical, though our respect for his profession would make us hesitate to admit it? The clerical office is venerable, and entitled to our highest respect, when its functionaries behave in a nianner worthy of their station. But the most venerable offices are liable to abuse. Men, sometimes, to the distress of all true Christians, are inducted into that holy office, who have every requisite quality, but the most valuable and important one, the spirit of our holy religion—the spirit of peace. There have been men of that profession, who, in all times, have been men of strifemen who have loved discord and dissension. When divines, mistaking their duty, which eminently obliges them to uphold the civil magistrate in his lawful functions, step forth, and with great zeal, hold up the magistrates as weak reasoners, as influenced by sectarian views in their solemn decisions, as plagiaries, borrowing their thoughts from occasional essays without examining