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they assert their right to inconvenience, or degrade us, we have no other ground of security but their interest, or their benignity. If we, or if the Catholics, remain silent, we are establishing a claim, which, if it press not too heavily on us, may be employed in hurling to the ground the sacred blessings of our posterity.
When a late attempt was made to press this principle upon the worship of dissenters, the whole body of the population rose against it, and by its firmness and vigor, baffled an attempt which would have exposed the mass of them to immediate inconvenience. The reinonstrances of so large a number convinced the high-church party that it was impolitic to enact the law. Why did we then display such unanimity and vigor? Was it because the inconvenience would be immediate, and the oppression general? And have we then no feeling but for our own individual interest--no prudent eye upon the lot of our children—no high-minded desires for the honor of our nature, for the dignity of our cause? Are we contented io oppress one small branch of the tree of intolerance, when we may lay the axe to the very foundations ? Are we satisfied with expending all our vigor in lopping off a few of the luxuriant boughs, which may fructify again to oppress future ages with their pernicious shade?
Again— If it still be contended that the deprivation of obtaining the political power, which we pay to support, on account of sentiments, is no infringement of liberty of conscience, let me ask you one question-Suppose a bill to deprive us all of our efective franchise, on the same account, were introduced into Parliament, and to place us on the same footing with the Catholics at the commencement of the present reign, would that be no infringement on religious freedom? This would still be no positive perse. cution ; we might still enjoy our prayer-meetings and conferences—at least as long as the government thus constituted would permit us; it would still be as much a question of political power as the present. To be eligible to places of trust and responsibility-to be able to serve our country in an exalted sphere--is as much our birth-right as the choice of men to legislate for us.
If our right to be chosen be taken away, our right to choose is equally Liable to be wrested from us. And should we then remain silent? Should we then content ourselves with our religious assemblies, and our hopes of a better country? Certainly not. And why? It would be a deprivation that would come home at once to every man's bosom ; it would not affect the aspiring few only, but the humble many.- Protestant Dissenters ! is this your patriotism, is this your zeal for religious liberty ? Have you no regard to the finer minds, who would reflect immortal honor on your illustrious body, if allowed the common chance of obtaining the prizes of pure and lofty ambition ? Have you no regard to the welfare of your brethren-none to the rights of your children? Is all your zeal for religious liberty a mere desire of private convenience, without aspiring after general advantage, and future security ?-If the virtuous feeling you have derived from your ancestors, be more than a wish to preserve your prayer.meetings and chapels from outrage during your own lives, come forward manfully to petition for an investigation of the rights of your brethren, and of yourselves--to raise the dignity of your cause, and assert the purity of your motives——to stifle every party feeling and inveterate prejudice—and to raise the foundations of liberty of conscience on a basis that can never be shaken.
doubts of the question being really one of religious freedom-if you still hesitate to believe civil disqualifications an infringement on the rights of conscience-let me bring the matter still closer to you—let me suppose, that the Parliament, acting on this idea, refused to all Dissenters the liberty of making a will, or obliged them to pay a larger portion of taxes than their neighbours; you would not then sit still unconcerned; you would not tolerate the impoverishing of your families, and flying to your still protected chapels, declare that the people of God had as little to do with wealth as with power; and although starvation, servitude, and degradation, were the penalties of your sincerity, as long as your worship was not molested, you were bound with lamblike meekness “ to kiss the hand just raised to shed your blood.” As well might you contend, that the law allows liberty to an insolvent debtor, because it protects him to a certain extent within the walls of his own house, as that religious freedom can never be taken away by external and worldly penalties, while your meetings are defended from violence.
It is true that these are extreme cases very unlikely to occur : but they as fairly result from the principle of disqualification as the hardships of which the Catholics now complain. My object has been to show that this is real persecution :--that it proceeds from the same accursed source—and may be productive of the same horrible and terrific effects. If this proposition be established, it needs no argument to persuade a Protestant Dissenter that it is most unjust. Let us, however, take one simple and natural view of the subject which will tend to corroborate our preceding remarks.
Suppose government were to raise its supplies by a lottery to which all were compelled to contribute, and to confine its prizes to one particular scct of Christians— would not the proceeding be palpably unjust? But
? would this be more unjust than the exclusions we are deploring? As long as speculative opinions have no connection with political conduct, and do not interfere with the order of society, it would be more reasonable to give all the offices of state exclusively to men of a particular cast of countenance or shape of body, than those who profess certain peculiar sentiments respecting form and creeds ; for though the excluded party might mourn most bitterly their wide mouths or fiat noses, it is evident no encouragement could be given to hypocrisy ; no premium to inordinate ambition: no temptation to the suppression of truth, or the prevalence of craft and turpi
To insist on the impolicy of the continuance of tests, after all that has been written and spoken on the subject, is surely unnecessary. A measure which deprives a state of the benefit of a large part of her talents and
virtues - which causes the conscious degradation of a portion of her members-which irritates while it oppresses --and which causes her internal wounds to fester and imposthumate-which gives a pretext to the discontented, and an encouragement to the rebellious-can scarcely be too earnestly deprecated or too firmly opposed.
If I have established the first proposition I proposed to support, and have animated my fellow-christians to claim their own rights, it may yet be made a question how far the Catholics are intitled to the same advantages: because it is asserted that their opinions are not merely religious or speculative, but of a nature to render them fit objects for moral reprobation. It is asserted that their oaths are not to be trusted that their doctrines of indulgences, remissions and dispensations would instigate them to the blackest deeds—and that their general belief renders them treacherous, blood-thirsty and reckless by, what means they enlarge the borders of their communion.
In answer to these terrible and horrific charges we have various kinds of evidence to adduce. In the first place it seems abundantly manifest that no sect professing and acting on such sentiments-holding the common principles of faith and honor as easily and lightly to be dispensed with—and devoutly believing that money could expiate every crime, and a few drops of holy water purify from every pollution-could possibly exist as a society. Yet these have maintained large and florishing communities; nor does history record a single instance of a breach of public or private faith which was justified by such an appeal. It was these gloomy and ferocious barbarians,