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ART. I. An Historical Inquiry into the Ancient Ecclesiastical Juris
tliction of the Crown : commencing with the Period in which Great Britain formed a Part of the Roman Empire. By James Baldwin Brown, Esq. Vol. I. Part I. The Reign of the. Emperor Constantine the Great. pp. xliv. 192. Price 7s. Underwood. Lon
don. 1815. THE Catholic Question has again occupied the deliberations
of the British Parliament, and still the triumph of success nn the part of the Roman Catholics is deferred. We say deferred, because there can scarcely exist any doubt that the advocates of their claims will at no distant period carry their point. Even the opponents of the measure begin to yield to this conviction, and to deem the evils of a perpetuated disoussion, scarcely inferior to those which are apprehended from the concession itself. Political danger is the only ground on which the boon is withheld, for there appears to be no question that the measure, if consistent with safety, is desirable; but they who still resist the demands of the Catholics, wish to have the merit of yielding to necessity, forgetting that the safety of coneession is diminished by the circumstances which render it unavoidable, and that the measure becomes less politic, as it becomes more necessary.
That no danger would attend the adınission of the Roman Catholics to a participation of secular power, no reasonable man can, we apprehend, be found sincerely to maintain. The Roman Catholic tenets, it is more and more evident, are unchanged, and unchangeable. In that intolerance which constitutes an essential article in the Komish creed, it is impossible to deny that there are the elements of political danger to a Protestant establishment. And it must be allowed that the State, as the responsible guardian of the interests of the community, is bound to take cognizance of political danger. It is not for
the quality of their faith,' or the modes of their worship,' in respect of which they are, as religious beings, accountable to God alone, but it is their political tenets which form their disqualification for official station and legislative authority. It is Vol. VII. N.S.
their avowed subjection to a foreign potentate as their ecclesiastical head, their avowed intolerance of all heretical churches, and their belief in the dispensing power of the Church, which render it a matter of doubtful policy, whether they shall be admitted to the full privileges of British subjects. In this respeet they differ froin all other classes of Dissenters, who are excluded from their common rights as citizens, solely on account of their religious character.
The Catholic Question appears to us to rest entirely upon political expediency: only, since the exclusion of any class of subjects from their natural rights must be considered as in itself an evil, the moment the concession can be made to appear compatible with safety, to withhold it not only becomes inexpedient, but begins to be unjust, for its justice is involved in its expediency. The social rights of individuals can suffer no legitimate abridgement, except in consideration of the public good, or the public safety. Expediency, though it cannot be the rule of moral duty, is the adequate basis of social law, and in this instance we conceive that the question can be determined only by the dictates of enlightened policy.
It is not our intention at present to go into all the bearings of this highly interesting and momentous subject. We are aware that different grounds have often been assumed by the opponents of the Catholic claims, and that notions equally at variance with the religious rights of all men, and with every sound principle of government, have been mixed up by intolerance and bigotry, in the discussion. The work before us, although not obnoxious to a charge of this nature, is one which appears to us to be of a pernicious tendency. Without going more at large, therefore, into the general question, we shall confine ourselves to a simple refutation of the false principles and irrelevant arguments brought forward by the present Author.
Mr. Brown appears to have composed this Inquiry expressly for the use of the Members of the British Parliament. A copy • of the first chapter, embracing the history of the proceedings
on the Donatist Schism, during the reign of the Emperor · Constantine, was some time since transmitted to Viscount
Sidmouth, his Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the " Home Department, with a view to its being printed by order
of the House of Commons, on the motion of an honourable 6 and learned Member, at whose suggestion the work was
originally undertaken. Such is the Author's own account of his present production. The non-official character of the Report having precluded its introduction into the House, Mr. Brown sends it forth to the world on his own responsibility, having previously deposited the original document in the office of the Home Secretary.
It may perhaps have already excited the surprise of our readers, that the Donatist Schism,' and the acts of the • Emperor Constantine,' should be offered to the attention of the British Legislature, in connexion with any of its anticipated deliberations in the Nineteenth Century. They may be disposed to ask what are the modern cases to which detailed accounts of the proceedings in Africa, relative to the Donatists in the Fourth Century, are intended to apply. The answer is, To the demand of a negative voice, or veto, in the Crown of these realms, in the appointment of Roman Catholic bishops, as a condition of removing from persons professing the Romish faith, the civil disabilities and pains to which they are now liable : a case which surely might be settled without either Constantine or the Donatists, or Mr. Brown's laborious conclusions and deductions from the ancient records of their acts and deeds.
It is possibly in the recollection of our readers, that Lord Grenville, in his letter to Lord Fingal, maintains, that the measure of communicating to our fellow-subjects professing the Roman Catholic religion, the full enjoyment of our civil constitution, accompanied with suitable arrangements maturely prepared and deliberately adopted, would be an act of undeniable wisdom and justice. These suitable arrangements have been generally understood to include the concession on the part of the Catholics, of the veto, that is, the transferring of the negative possessed by the Pope in the nomination of the Roman Catholic bishops and vicars apostolic, into the hands of the British Government. The concession of the veto has been al.. ways hitherto resisted by the Catholics, who have declared in very strong terms, that they never can consent to any dominion or control whatsoever over the appointment of their prelates on the
part of the Crown, or of the servants of the Crown ; while the prelates themselves have avowed their determination to bear the heaviest trials, and to die as victims, rather than to concede power or influence in any part of the Catholic Church to a non-catholic sovereign. On this point of concession there exists a radical difference between the Catholics and many
of the ablest and most zealous supporters of their claims.
In relation to this question, and the circumstances which bare become associated with it, Mr. Brown brings forward this 'historical Inquiry, the subject of which he represents as possessing at the present moment a peculiar interest and daily increasing importance; and the object of which is to persuade the Catholics into a surrender of the veto. Favourable to their claims, he asserts the question of the veto to be inseparably connected with the propriety of granting to the Roman Catholies the prayer of their petition. The exercise of a mutual conoession, is, m bis opinion, indispensable to the ob
taining of the desired object. In accordance with these sentiments, he has employed himself in collecting such evidence as to bim seems best calculated to convince the Catholics, that the security required of them is neither an unprecedented, nor an improper demand. His object is to shew that the reserving
to the crown a veto on the appointment of their bishops, and a proper control over their communications with the Papal
See, in matters of external regulation, is quite consistent with 'the interference of the Supreme secular Magistrate, in the
concerns of the Church, from the period at which it was first united with the State, under their favourite Emperor Constantine the Great, to the moment when the Roman Catholic • Faith ceased to be the established religion of the country.'
Adverting to the opinion that the question which the claim of the veto has originated, might receive elucidation from the practice of other* Roman Catholic states in the appointment of bishops, he remarks, that 'the fullest exposition of this prac
tice could only tend to agitate another and a much more
important question, which sooner or later must be distinctly 6. met.'
• To what extent was the supreme sécular power of the state accustomed to interfere in the government of the church, since any thing like an union between these once opposing powers was first effected; and by that means was that interference maintained, in opposition to the encroaching and reiterated claims of the spiritual head of, at one period, every country in Europe, to an exclusive jurisdiction over its external regulation, as well as its internal discipline?'
This is the question which Mr. Brown represents to be so important, and to provide an answer to it is the object of his present undertaking.
If the value of a work is to be estimated by the temper, the talents, and the assiduity of which it furnishes evidence, in the Author, Mr. Brown's performance must then be highly rated. On these grounds we cannot hesitate in making a very favourable report of his character as a writer. But if the merit of a work consists in its utility, in its tendencies to enlighten mankind, and to accomplish great and worthy purposes subservient to their welfare ; then, it seems to us, that the labour which has been employed in the composition of this inquiry, has been exerted in vain, and that the talents of the writer have been altogether misdirected. To read numerous and learned works, and to write a book for the purpose of establishing the conclu
* Mr. Brown does not explain in what sense he uses this word, which evidently imports that England is a Roman Catholic State.