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that the adoption of religion is the free act of each of them, they agree to acknowledge and declare by a public civil act of that power, which is avowedly in them, that a particular religion is that, in the adoption of which the majority does concur.
And because the majority does thus concur in its adoption, they think proper to appropriate a certain
part of the national fund, of which they are the dispensers, to the maintenance and support of the ministers of this religion, and they invest them, according to their degrees, with certain civil or legal rights, benefits, and advantages; and in these alone confifts the civil establishment of a religion. In justice, however, to the majority of our community, who insist upon such an incorporation of an ecclesiastical with the civil establishment of the state, I cannot omit to lay before my readers some of the many reasons
and motives for such their determination. Reasons why * “ I assure you, I do not aim at singulaene community chufe to make rity. I give you opinions, which have been a civil establithment of reli.
accepted amongst us from very early times to this moment, with a continued and general approbation, and which indeed are so worked into my mind, that I am unable to
• Mr. Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, p. 147, 148,
distinguish what I have learned from others, from the results of my own meditation.
“ It is on such principles that the majority of the people of England, far from thinking a religious national establishment unlawful, hardly think it lawful to be without one.
In France you are wholly mistaken, if you do not believe us above all other things attached to it, and beyond all other nations ; and when this people has acted unwisely and unjustifiably in its favour (as in some instances they have done most certainly) in their very errors you will at least discover their zeal.
“ This principle runs through the whole system of their polity. They do not consider their church establishment as convenient, but as essential to their state ; not as a thing heterogeneous and separable ; fomething added for accoinmodation; what they may either keep up or lay aside, according to their temporary ideas of convenience. They consider it as the foundation of their whole conftitution, with which, and with every part of which, it holds an indiffoluble union. Church and state are ideas inseparable in their minds, and scarcely is the one ever mentioned without mentioning the other.”
I do not wish, much less do I undertake to prove, that Mr. Burke's reasons for thinking a religious establishment in our constitution profound and extensive wisdom, are stronger and more conclusive, than Dr. Priestley's are for thinking it the extreme of folly, and very 'mischievous. But I do contend, that considering Mr. Burke and Dr. Priestley as two individual members of the English community, each of them has an equal right to form his own mind upon this subject, as well as upon every other subject of legislation; and that very
same right does every other individual of the The majority
nine millions poffefs. It fuffices therefore, the whole,
that a majority of these nine millions chuse to have such a religious establishment; it is evi
dent, from what has been before said, that the reasons belets minority, though they should be actuated by convincing than the better reasons, will nevertheless be con
cluded by the act of the majority, though the latter should be influenced by the weaker reasons. This is a fundamental principle of fociety, and consequently of all civil govern
If it be once broken in upon, an irreparable breach will be immediately made in the constitution, that will ensure and accelerate the total diffolution 'cf government; for no human law can have force or efficacy
those of the minority.
upon any other principle. If this principle be withdrawn from one law, it is withdrawn from all; and then the firmest bulwark of the wiseft legisators will crumble into an impalpable substance, and be irrevocably scattered by the weakest breath that reaches it. Hence may be seen the difference between principles and rules; the former are universally and unexceptionably true and applicable to all pofsible cases; the latter admit of exceptions, which are even said to strengthen and establifh the rule.
A principiis nunquam recedendum: True principle will carry us through every difficulty, that can possibly be started by the enemies of our constitution; for I must ever call those enemies to the state, who disavow and oppose the fundainental principles of our constitution and government.
The most feeling ground, upon which Dr. Priestley seems to combat against the civil establishment of a religion in a state, is that of the maintenance provided and secured by the state, for the ministers, teachers, and guardians of their religion.
- Let it not be said Dr. Priest'ey that the church of England would have the impudence, if it had the power, to collect its
• Priestley's Letters to Mr. Burke, Let. vi. r: 59.
to pay tithes
tythes from every country in Christendom, though every parish should be a finecure, and all their bishops be denominated in partibus. Let there be an appearance, at least, which now there is not, of some regard to religion in the case, and not to mere revenue. Often as I have urged this subject, and many as have been those, who have animadverted upon my writings, hardly any have touched upon this; they feel it to be tender ground; they can, however, keep an obstinate silence; they can shut their ears and turn their eyes to other objects, when it is not to their purpose
to attend to this.” The obligation Were I merely answering the objections of equal upon all. Dr. Priestley, I should content myself with
insisting, that the majority of the community had chosen to incorporate an ecclesiastical establishment as an essential part in their civil conftitution ; that this ecclesiastical eftablishment should be guided and preserved by bishops, and their inferior clergy; that they should be maintained by certain portions or allotments of the national produce or property; and that therefore the diffenting minority were effectually bound, as inembers of the community, to contribute their quota in tythes, or otherwise, towards the maintenance of that clergy, to whom the act of the