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to the good of society, the subject may think to be wrong and hurtful to it."
If Dr. Priestley here means, by the term magistrate, the supreme legislative power of the state, from what has already been said, it will clearly appear, that the subject is bound and concluded by the act of his own trustees and delegates; and such are the three estates of our legislature, as I shall hereafter more particularly observe. It is not possible, therefore, in the present system of the British conftitution, for the subject (if by the term subezt is meant the majority of the community) to think that wrong and hurtful, which the representatives of the community, who must be supposed to speak the language of the real majority, think to be just and conducive to the good of the society. But although the minority of the community Thould think so differently of the act of the majority, their disapprobation or consideration of the measure will neither invalidate the act, nor justify any resistance against it, when it has once acquired the force of a law: for *“ every law is a direct emanation of the sovereignty of the people,” consequently must be taken for the act of the majority.
• Macintosh, p. 297.
But if by the term magistrate, he means that 'executive magistratical power, which by the constitution is vested in the king or supreme executive power of the state, and from him is derived to all subordinate civil magistrates throughout the realm, the observation is perfectly absurd and irrelevant: for the executive magistrate has no legislative power; and he is equally bound by his duty and trust to enforce the laws, which make or which concern the civil establishment of religion, as any other laws whatsoever, which is very pointedly noticed by Dr. Priestley himself in another
of his works. *" The civil magistrate has nothing to do with the truth of religion, being cbliged to provide for that, which is professed by the majority of the subjects, though he himfelf should be of a different persuasion. Thus the king of Great Britain must maintain episcopacy in England and presbyterianism in Scotland, whether he be a presbyterian as king William, a Lutheran as Geo. I. or a true churchman as his present Majesty.”
† “ Others have the moderation and good sense to admit the reasonableness of persons
The civil m3-
* Letters to Mr. Burke, Lett. vi. p. 51.
+ Priestley's Essays on the First Principles of Government, p. 145.
being allowed to judge for themselves, and to think, as they please in matters of religion, and even to exercise whatever mode of religion their consciences approve of; but they will not admit of any thing, that has a tendency to increase the obnoxious sect, no publication of books, or other attempts to make profelytes, nor even a reflection upon the established religion, though it be necessary to a vindication of their own. But what sige nifies a privilege of judging for ourselves, if we have not the necessary means of forming a right judgment, by the perufal of books containing the evidence of both sides of the question? What some distinguish by the names of active and pashve opposition to an established religion, differ only in name and degree. To defend myself, and to attack my adversary, is, in
many cases, the very fame thing, and the one cannot be done without the other.”
This assumption of a right to reprobate and resist the civil establishment of religion appears to be founded
the presumption, that it is equally competent for every individual of the community to form his own mind upon the subject of religion. So says Dr. Priestley to Mr. Burke, *“ It is no un
• Dr. Priestley's Letters to Mr. Burke, Let. vi. 2:51.
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,
paiti' g laws, no justification of those who retist them.