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Argument is now useless against a law which all in this country would join in denouncing, although similar laws still disgrace the Protestant States of Denmark, Sweden and Germany.
About the time when the laws just referred to were enacted, a plot was formed among some of Cromwell's old soldiers living in the colony, and being betrayed by one of them, led to the suppression of the meetings at which it had been formed. Danger to the State does not seem, in this case, to have been a mere pretext for suppressing religious assemblies, as it has ever been from the days of Trajan to those of Louis Napoleon.
Fear of Popery appears to have been revived at a somewhat later period, when James the Second was insidiously attempting its restoration in England. But this fear was soon relieved by the accession of William and Mary. Cotemporary with their accession was the appointment, as Episcopal Commissary, of James Blair, a Scotchman of talent, learning and usefulness, who contributed more than anyone else to the foundation of William and Mary College.
We suppose that Dr. Blair and others in Virginia, must have felt the influence of William of Orange, whose opinions on toleration coincided with those of Locke, whose first « Essay” appeared the very year of Blair's appointment to the office of Commissary. King William is said to have sent over to Virginia, in 1690 and 1699, two bodies of French Huguenots, who had left their country when the Edict of Nantes was revoked. They naturally liked William, they able and untiring foe of their great persecutor, and he, hating all intolerance, hated it most in the invader of his native Holland, and the tyrant of France. Partly the monarch's wishes, and partly their own compassion, unchecked in the case of the Huguenots by opposition or prejudice, made the Virginians very favorable to these French Protestants. They gave them lands on James river, exempted them for some years from taxation, and allowed them freedom of worship, privileges which they extended, in 1713, to a small body of Germans,–Protestants, we pre
sume, -who settled on the Rappahannock. The policy, as well as kindness, of these measures was strikingly manifested in the case of the French. We know a case, in which three sons of a Huguenot minister came over from Ireland, where their father was living, and took orders in the Episcopal Church, one of them being appointed Professor at William and Mary. This instance is more worthy of note, because their father had indignantly rejected aid from some English Episcopalians, who had annexed, as a condition of their charity, “a certificate of his having received the communion according to the rites of the Church of England,' and had proposed that he, a gentleman and a scholar, and his wife, a lady of refinement, should go to service, and commit the education of their children to these bigots. Yet his sons became Episcopalians, in common with many other Huguenots, as soon as they reached a land where Episcopacy did not approach them in the shape of compulsion. A remark of Beverley's about the Quakers, shows that the same policy would have succeeded with them. 6 As for the Quakers,” he says, “'tis observed by letting them alone they diminish daily.'
Near the same time with the first colony of Huguenots, appeared one minister belonging to another set of Calvinists, who do not seem to have been as much favored by the government. Yet differing little, if at all, in doctrine or government, they also belonged to a stock that should have been in favor with William, that Scotch-Irish stock, whose heroic defence of Londonderry had so materially aided him. Yet Foote tells us that their first minister, Mackenie, who settled in Accomac about 1690, “suffered often under the laws of Virginia,” “although by his firmness and ability" he made a favorable impression on the magistrates and Gov
In 1699 the Virginia legislature adopted the toleration act of William and Mary by a general reference, without quoting its words, as if they did not wish its provisions generally and accurately known. Mackenie seems to have been among the first who obtained the benefit of this act, by getting a license to preach in Accomac. As this region was Berkeley's asylum during Bacon's rebellion, the
presumption is that the Church party was dominant there; yet there must have been persons ready to hear, if not to support, the Presbyterian minister. His own “hands ministered to his necessities” by mercantile pursuits. McNish and Hampton, two other preachers, who accompanied him from Ireland, had more difficulty in getting license within the adjacent territory of Maryland, where Episcopal intolerance had been substituted for the Catholic toleration of Lord Baltimore. The English Episcopalians had always evinced a deep interest in the Huguenots from the days of the League, while they had been often brought into unpleasant collision with the Presbyterians inhabiting the British isles. John Knox, indeed, was not always odious in England, where he once resided, and where his model, Calvin, had aided in framing the articles of the Episcopal Church. But there was afterwards a breach between the churches, which had become very wide at the time of the Great Rebellion. The conduct of the Presbyterians, both Scotch and English, had greatly exasperated the English and, with them, the Virginia Episcopalians. The Scotch had not only resisted the civil and ecclesiastical tyranny of Charles, but, as his friends alleged, basely sold him, their trusting guest, to the English Parliament, a fragment of which afterwards had him executed. The English Presbyterians, too, had earnestly resisted despotism, and had overthrown the Church, although too conservative for regicide, republicanism, or even toleration. We must therefore beg leave to differ from Mr. Foote, who, in his “ Sketches of Virginia," vol. I., p. 61, asserts, that the “Solemn League and Covenant” “ drew the line between the friends of civil and religious liberty.' He surely cannot forget that this famous instrument was forced on the Scotch nation, by the pains of excommunication, that it bound its signers to persecute Prelatists and Papists, and was designed to establish a National Church. It is true they were goaded on by Charles' abominable interference with their rights of conscience. Yet surely they ought not to have imitated his example, by forcing the Presbyterian doctrine and discipline on England. It was this which made Milton speak of "sav
ing free conscience from the paw of the Presbyterian wolf,” as it created in the Episcopalian mind an entirely different feeling towards the British, from that which they entertained towards the French Calvinists. It is this too, which should prevent American Presbyterians from referring to their European antecedents, when religious liberty is mentioned. We shall see presently whether their preconceived notions did not clog them in the struggle for entire religious liberty, which took place in Virginia, just after the revolution.
Beverly, as quoted by Foote, says of 1705, “ The people are generally of the Church of England, which is the religion established by the law in the country, from which there are very few dissenters. They have no more than five conventicles amongst them, namely three small meetings of Quakers, and two of Presbyterians. 'Tis observed that those counties where the Presbyterian meetings are, produce very mean tobacco, and, for that reason, can't get an orthodox minister to stay amongst them ;'' (the italics are ours ;)" but whenever they could, the people went very orderly to church.''
Does not this show that the reluctance " to preach the Gospel to the poor,” common in religious establishments, actually characterized that of Virginia. Dr. Hawks frankly admitting the bad condition of the Episcopal church, traces it, not to the establishment, but to bad regulations, insufficient provisions for ministers, capricious removal of them by the vestries, and a want of a resident bishop to enforce discipline. While these causes had, no doubt, their influence, they did not fully account for the facts. Among the complaints against the mother Church of England, none has been more prominent than neglect of the poor, or has more contributed to give dissenters their present numerical equality, if not superiority. Has not the inability of the Presbyterians even, fully to enlist the sympathies of the humbler classes, given a most telling advantage to the two most numerous denominations in Virginia, the Methodists and Baptists, whose share in forming Virginia character Dr. Foote seems to have ignored ?
No church organization will ever free men on earth from love of money ; but it will surely have most influence with the ministers of an establishment, where fixed compensation is the rule by which they measure their expectations and their conduct. Presbyterian ministers, coming from a church, poor, even where Presbyterianism was established, to a region where they were compelled to embrace the voluntary system, occupied those places, where the State preachers could not find tobacco good enough for them. It is probable that the dissenting preachers who came to Virginia were among the most zealous, instead of the most worthless, the class in which Sir William Berkeley places those imported into the colony by the Episcopalians, the establishment being in this respect clearly injurious. It has been generally supposed, too, that discipline in an Episcopal church, even under the immediate control of a bishop, is not at all more strict than in a Congregational or Presbyterian church, especially when the latter is not corrupted, as in Scotland, by union with the State. Capricious removal by the vestry or by the congregation, is an evil necessarily incident to the voluntary system now prevalent in the United States, to a far greater extent, we should suppose, than it could have ever have been experienced by the colonial church; yet it has not prevented the great prosperity of several denominations.
[TO BE CONTINUED.]