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and who have passed their youth in the dissipation and pursuits which commonly accompany the possession or inheritance of great fortunes; country gentlemen, occupied in the management of their estates, or in the care of their domestic concerns and family interests; the greater part of the assembly born to their station, that is, placed in it by chance; most of the rest advanced to the peerage for services and from motives utterly unconnected with legal erudition ;-these men compose the tribunal to which the constitution intrusts the interpretation of her laws, and the ultimate decision of every dispute between her subjects !”
From this very degrading representation of the house of lords, the writer proceeds to justify the practice of constantly placing in it, some of the most eminent and experienced lawyers in the kingdom. He would, I think, with more propriety have argued against rendering one part of the legislature a court of justice, designed both to make and execute the laws; because every solid politician bas agreed in the propriety of keeping the legislative and judicial powers as separate and as distinct from each other as it is possible.
I leave this point for the discussion of future political writers, and satisfy myself with suggesting that it is necessary to the perfect contentment of a people jealous of their liberty and the purity of judicial proceedings, that all temptations whatever should be removed from the sight of frail human beings, sitting in the seat of judgment, which may lead them to court the favour of ruling powers at the expense of justice. It is not money alone which bribes. Title, rank, and patronage, which is power in its most agreeable form, have more influence on the universal passion, vanity; especially when avarice has been
already gratified with ample salaries and the emoluments of a lucrative profession.
The consideration of the possible rewards which may diminish the independence of judges, naturally leads to the consideration of those which may secularize the bishops, and injure the cause of religion, for which alone episcopacy itself could be established.
But, as this is a subject of some delicacy, I shall use the authority and words of Dr. Watson, the Bishop of Llandaff, who ventured to speak the whole truth, with that sound sense, 'which was his characteristic, and with that freedom which becomes an honest man in every rank, and is particularly expected from a Christian bishop.
“I know,” says the Bishop, “ that many will be startled, I beg them not to be offended, at the surmise of the bishops not being independent in the house of lords; and it would be easy enough to weave a logical cobweb, large enough and strong enough to cover and protect the conduct of the Right Reverend Bench from the attacks of those who dislike episcopacy. This, I say, would be an easy task ; but it is far above my ability to eradicate from the minds of others (who are, notwithstanding, as well attached to the church establishment as ourselves,) a suspicion that the prospect of being translated influences the minds of the bishops too powerfully, and induces them to pay too great an attention to the beck of a minister. The suspicion, whether well or ill founded, is disreputable to our order; and, what is of worse consequence, it hinders us from doing that good which we otherwise might do; for the laity, while they entertain such a suspicion concerning us, will accuse us of avarice and ambition, of
“ of quib
making a gain of godliness, of bartering the dignity of our office for the chance of a translation.
“ Instead then,” proceeds the Bishop, bling and disputing against the existence of ministers influence over us, or recriminating and retorting the petulance of those who accuse us on that account, let us endeavour to remove the evil; or, if it must not be admitted that this evil has any real existence, let us endeavour to remove the appearance of it.
“ The disparity of income and patronage might be made so small, or so apportioned to the labours, that few bishops would be disposed to wish for translations; and consequently the bishops would, in appearance as well as in reality, be independent.
“ But, in rendering the bishops independent, you will reduce the power of the crown in the house of lords. I do not mean to deny this charge; nay, I am willing to admit it in its full extent.-The influence of the crown, when exerted by the cabinet over the public counsellors of the king, is a circumstance so far from being to be wished by his true friends, that it is as dangerous to the real interests and honour of the crown itself, as it is odious to the people, and destructive of public liberty.
“ It may contribute to keep a prime minister in his place, contrary to the sense of the wisest and best part of the community; it may contribute to keep the king himself unacquainted with his people's wishes, but it cannot do the king or the state any service. To maintain the contrary is to satirise his majesty's government; it is to insinuate, that his views and interests are so disjoined from those of his people, that they cannot be effectuated by the uninfluenced concurrence of honest men.
“ I cannot admit the circumstance of the bishops
þeing rendered independent in the house of lords, as any real objection to the plan proposed; on the contrary, I think it a very strong argument in its favour; so strong an one that, if there was no other, it would be sufficient to sanctify the measure.”
The corruption of the church for the purpose of corrupting the legislature, is an offence far more injurious to the general happiness of mankind and the interests of a Christian community, than any of those which have banished the offenders to Botany Bay, or confined them for years within the walls of the prison-house. Both the corruptors and the corrupted, in this case, are more injurious to Christianity than all the tribe of sceptics and infidels; than Tindal, Toland, Bolingbroke, Hume, Rousseau, Voltaire, and Gibbon. The common people do not read them, and perhaps could scarcely understand them. But the common people do read the newspapers daily, and see the names and qualities of those who divide in the senate-house, on questions of the last importance. They must therefore entertain a suspicion, as the Bishop of Llandaff expresses it, that religion itself, as well as its official, opulent, dignified supporters, is but an instrument of state, a tool in the hand of a minister. They must naturally consider venality as doubly base, when clothed in the sanctified robes of religion. What has happened in France, in consequence of the corruptions of the church by the state, ought to afford a striking admonition.
I wish to point out, in these times, writings of living bishops in favour of Christianity, because they would be opposed with the best grace against the writings of living infidels. But, to the reproach of my want of intelligence, I know not the names of the majority, till I find them in the Court Calendar.
The printed works of even this majority I cannot find, either in the shops or the libraries : the few I do find, even of the minority, are not adapted to the wants of the people at large. Their occasional sermons, after they have served their day, become, like almanacs, out of date : a collection of old court calendars would be nearly as edifying and more entertaining to the multitude.
It is indeed certain, that the archiepiscopal mitres received more lustre than they gave, from the sermons of Dr. Tillotson and Dr. Secker. It would give me pleasure to place the sermons of living archbishops by their side; and I would mention them had they come to my knowledge. The sermons, however, of the few living bishops who are known at all to the public will, I hope, prove to mankind, that some among the bishops, in this happy isle, do not think it a sufficient return for princely revenues, to vote always with a minister, or to increase, with lawn sleeves, the pageantry of a birthday. To perform the occasional duties of ordination, confirmation, and visitation, cannot satisfy the minds of men who receive the honours and emoluments of Durham, Winchester, York, or Canterbury. That it is so, is happy; for if ever the prelatical clergy should be suspected of becoming merely ministerial instruments; if, for instance, they should ever be supposed so far secularized, as to concede to the minister that made them bishops, the right of nominating to all the most valuable preferments in their gift, in order to enable him the better to corrupt that parliament in which themselves also have engaged to give a venal vote; from that time, they would contribute more to the downfal of the church, than all the writings of all the unbelievers, from Frederick, late King of Prussia, to the repub