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nominated, and a fine of £600 on every person that should refuse to serve after being elected. As the Test Act required every person elected to the office to“ qualify," in order to serve, this extraordinary bye-law inflicted a heavy penalty on every Dissenter that the Corporation chose to nominate. the intention of the Corporation to nominate Dissenters who were unlikely or unable to serve. They nominated one who was blind, another who was bedridden. At every vacancy a Dissenter was nominated ; one after another refused to stand, or, when elected, refused to serve; in six years the fines amounted to £15,000. The Corporation was building the Mansion House, and the fining of Dissenters seemed the easiest and least offensive way of raising money
sive way of raising money for the purpose. But the Dissenters resolved, at last, to resist. In the year 1754 three Dissenters in succession were elected; they refused to serve, and they were fined. The Dissenting Deputies encouraged them to test their legal liability. The case against one of them--Mr. Streatfield-broke down immediately on a technical ground. The case against the other two-Mr. Sheafe and Mr. Evans--was carried by appeal from court to court until at last it reached the House of Lords. Before it could be tried, Mr. Sheafe died, and Mr. Evans was left alone. On February 3 and 4, 1767—thirteen years after the beginning of the action-six out of seven Judges gave judgment in favour of the Nonconformist. Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice, delivered the decision of the Lords, and with a noble eloquence denounced the Corporation and vindicated the principles of religious liberty.
In 1771 a movement was originated for releasing the clergy from the obligation to subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles. The leader of the movement was Archdeacon Blackburne, who, a few years before (1766), had published The Confessional, in which he maintained that Protestant Churches cannot, without violating their own principles, impose creeds as the test of orthodoxy. The Confessional was published anonymously, but created a great sensation. At a meeting held at “ The
i Sketch of the History and Proceedings of the Deputies appointed to Protect the Civil Rights of Protestant Dissenters, 25–39.
Feathers Tavern,” July 17, 1771, a petition for the relief of the clergy from subscription was adopted, in which the petitioning clergy maintained that subscription prevented them from exercising the right of searching the Scriptures and judging its meaning for themselves. Theophilus Lindsey, Vicar of Catterick, in Yorkshire, went up and down the country to obtain signatures, but without much success. The clergy were indifferent; the Methodists were hostile. The Countess of Huntingdon, who was becoming a person of considerable importance in connection with the Methodist revival, got up counter-petitions, obtained a promise from Lord North, the First Lord of the Treasury, to resist the proposed legislation, and canvassed members of Parliament to vote against its prayer. The petition was presented on February 6, 1772, and a motion founded on it was moved by Sir William Meredith, which gave rise to a debate of eight hours. Burke, who had promised Lady Huntingdon to oppose it,* made a vigorous speech.
"[The petitioners,"] he said, “want to be preferred clergymen in the Church of England as by law established; but their consciences will not suffer them to conform to the doctrines and practices of that church ; that is, they want to be teachers in a church to which they do not belong ; and it is an odd sort of hardship. They want to receive the emoluments appropriated for teaching one set of doctrines, whilst they are teaching another. A church, in any legal sense, is only a system of religious doctrines and practices, fixed and ascertained by some law; by the difference of which laws, different churches (as different commonwealths) are made in various parts of the world, and the establishment is a tax laid by the same sovereign authority 5 for payment of those who so teach and so practise. For no legislature was ever so absurd as to tax its people to support men for teaching and acting as they please ; but by some prescribed rule.
The hardship amounts to this, that the people of England are not taxed two shillings in the pound to pay them for teaching, as divine truths, their own particular fancies. For the State has so taxed the people; and by way of relieving these gentlemen, it would be a cruel
? T. Belsham, Memoirs of Lindsey, 48, 50-51. The petition was signed, not by ministers only, but by physicians, surgeons, and others. It is given in full in Parliamentary Debates (Debrett), vi. 168–171.
3 Life and Times of Selina Countess of Huntingdon, by a Member of the Houses of Shirley and Hastings, ii. 286.
4 For his letter, ibid., ii. 286-287.
6 Tithes, therefore, in Burke's view, were, for all practical purposes,
hardship on the people to be compelled to pay, from the sweat of their brow, the most heavy of all taxes to men, to condemn as heretical the doctrines which they repute to be orthodox, and to reprobate as superstitious the practices which they use as pious and holy. . . . If they do not like the establishment, there are a hundred different modes of dissent in which they may teach. But even if they are so unfortunately circumstanced that of all that variety none will please them, they have free liberty to assemble a congregation of their own ; and if any persons think their fancies (they may be brilliant imaginations) worth paying for, they are at liberty to maintain them as their clergy; nothing hinders it. But if they cannot get a hundred people together who will pay for their reading a liturgy after their form, with what face can they insist upon the nation's conforming to their ideas, for no other visible purpose than the enabling them to receive with a good conscience the tenth part of the produce of your lands ? ”6
The motion was lost by a majority of 217 to 71. It was brought on again in 1773 and 1774, but on both occasions defeated. The whole movement was really intended to enable Unitarians to remain in the English Church, and after the third defeat Lindsey and some other clergymen resigned their livings and became Unitarian ministers.
It was wittily said that if the petitioners had been successful, the Dissenting ministers would have been the only persons in England under a legal obligation to sign the Thirty-nine Articles ; and during the first of the three debates on the question it was suggested that while those who held the emoluments of the Church might reasonably be required to profess their belief, it was unreasonable to enforce subscription upon those who were neither its ministers nor its niembers. A Bill was therefore brought into the House of Commons on April 3, 1772, by Sir Henry Hoghton and Edmund Burke, substituting for the subscription to doctrinal articles required from Dissenting ministers, tutors, and schoolmasters, a general Declaration of belief in the Holy Scriptures as containing a revelation of the mind and will of God and the rule of faith and practice. The measure passed through the Commons, but was defeated in the Lords by 102 to 39.8
6 Burke, vi. 96-97.
8 Second reading carried in the Commons by 70 to 9. C. J. (April 14, 1792), xxxiii. 696. The Bill thrown out in the Lords by 73 present and 29 proxies, 102, as against 23 present and 6 proxies, 39. L. J (May 19, 1792), xxxiii. 419.
In the Lords’ debate, in reply to Drummond, Archbishop of York, who had charged the Dissenting ministers with being men of “ close ambition,” Lord Chatham said :
“This is judging uncharitably; and whoever brings such a charge without evidence, defames. The dissenting ministers are represented as men of close ambition : they are so, my lords; and their ambition is to keep close to the college of fishermen, not of cardinals; and to the doctrines of inspired apostles, not to the decrees of interested and aspiring bishops. They contend for a scriptural and spiritual worship; we have a Calvinistic creed, a Popish liturgy, and an Arminian clergy. The Reformation has laid open the Scriptures to all ; let not the bishops shut them again.” 9
The Bill was defeated again by the Lords in 1773 ; several congregations of Dissenters petitioning against it on the ground that the relaxation of subscription would encourage Unitarianism and Popery. Why it should have encouraged Popery is not apparent.10
The Dissenters were provoked by this second defeat, and assaulted the bishops, and the other opponents of the measure, in a storm of pamphlets which showed that the timid submission with which the grievances of Nonconformists had been endured was giving place to a very different temper. Wellknown Dissenting leaders like Ebenezer Radcliffe, Kippis, Furneaux, Gibbons, Stennett, and Robert Robinson, led the attack. Joshua Toulmin, of Birmingham, was conspicuous in the fray. In 1779 the opposition collapsed. The Bill, slightly altered, passed through both Houses, strongly supported in the Lords by Dr. Shipley, bishop of St. Asaph, and the following Declaration was substituted for subscription to the Doctrinal Articles :
“I, A B, do solemnly declare, in the presence of Almighty God, that I am a Christian and a Protestant, and as such that I believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, as commonly received among Protestants Churches, do contain the revealed will
• Bogue and Bennett, History of Dissenters, iv. 162-163. Skeats, Free Churches, 459-460.
10 Bill thrown out by 80 to 28, including proxies on both sides. The petitions from Dissenting ministers and others are duly recorded in the official Journals. L. J. (April 2, 1773), xxxiii. 601. See also Ivimey, Baptists, iv., 31-32. Bogue and Bennett, iv. 163-165.
of God; and that I do receive the same as the rule of my doctrine and practice."
The Dissenting Deputies now thought that the time had come to attempt the carrying of a Bill for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts. The measure was laid before the House of Commons by Mr. Beaufort on March 28, 1787. He was seconded by Sir Henry Hoghton. Lord North, now in opposition, described the Acts as "the great bulwark of the constitution,” and asserted that the people of England owed to them “ those inestimable blessings of freedom which we now happily enjoy." Pitt, who was Prime Minister, insisted that some Dissenters were opposed to the very existence of the Establishment, and that to repeal the Acts would alarm the Church. Fox vindicated the Dissenters. The motion was lost by 178 to 100.12
The Bill was brought forward again by Mr. Beaufoy in 1789, and in the course of an excellent speech he denounced the laws as degrading the sacrament to“ a qualification for gauging beerbarrels and soap-boilers’ tubs, for writing Custom-house dockets and debentures, and for seizing smuggled tea.” 13 Fox made a great speech on the same side. The motion was lost by only 20 ; the votes were 122 to 102.1
19 Geo. III. cap. 44. Parliamentary Register, xii. 171-172, 353354 (March 17, April 28, 1779).
12 Parliamentary Register (Commons), xxi. 527-568 ; and introduction, ibid., 522–527. C. J. (March 28, 1787), xlii. 613. Annual Register, 1787, xxix. 114-120. The “tellers are omitted from the figures as given in the Journals, while they are included in the Annual Register.
13 Cowper put the Dissenters' case excellently, in his “ Expostulation,” Poems, (1800), i. 126.
“Hast thou by statute shoved from its design
The Saviour's feast, His own bless'd bread and wine,
He wipes and scours the silver cup in vain." 15 Parliamentary Register (Commons), xxvi. 93–128 ; especially, 104. C. J. (May 8, 1789), xliv. 340.