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ceive the sacrament after the manner of the church of England, or after the manner of any church, as a qualification for an office, should render them incapable of holding public employments, civil or military.
4. “ The occasional receiving of the Lord's supper, as a qualification for a place, cannot, in the nature of things, imply, that those who thus receive it mean to declare their full and entire approbation of the whole constitution and frame of the established church; since men may be compelled by their necessities, or allured by secular advantages, to do what they would not do, were they left to their free choice. As, from these motives, persons may be induced to conform to the established church in this par. ticular instance, though they do not approve of its forms and ceremonies in general; so, from the same motives, others may comply with the sacramental test who are not even christians, and who therefore cannot be supposed to wish well to christianity itself, or to any national establishment of it whatsoever. Hence it is apparent, that such a test can be no real or effectual security to the church of England. It is also apprehended, that, independently of any remarks upon the doctrine of papal dispensations, the sacramental test complained of may be received by many papists, because many of them hold the church of England to be no church, her ministers no ministers, and her sacraments no sacraments.
5. “ The oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and the declaration against transubstantiation, have, without the sacramental test, been found effectual, for more than a century, to exclude papists from both Houses of parliament.
6. “ The repeal of the test and corporation-acts, while it would be a relief to many of his majesty's faithful subjects, would lay no difficulty or hardship on any others of them. It would no way affect the established church. Religion, and the national church, were established before these acts were passed, and would continue to be established were they repealed. The doctrine, the discipline, and privileges of the church, would remain exactly the same as they are at present. Its constitution and its form of government are not secured by these acts; nor would they be injured by the total repeal of them. On the contrary, every serious clergyman would find, in such repeal, ease to his conscience, and safety from vexatious prosecutions; for the service of the church of England, in its notice respecting the celebration of the communion, forbids blasphemers of God, slanderers of his word, adulterers, &c. to come to the holy table; and yet the minister, as the law now stands, must admit all such persons to the sacrament when they demand it as a qualification for an office, or subject himself to a prosecution.
7. “ No other instance can be produced, among all the reformed churches, in which the sacrament is ever applied as a qualification for civil employments and advantages.
8. “ The episcopalians in North Britain, who are the dissenters from the church established in that part of the united kingdom, are not liable to any incapacities in consequence of their not qualifying themselves by receiving the sacrament according to the usage of the church of Scotland; but are capable of all the ad
vantages of the civil government by taking the oaths, &c. as appointed by law. Whence it follows, that it is not reasonable or just, that such of the members of the established church of North Britain as are resident in England, should be subject to the ungracious alternative, of acting inconsistently with their principles, or of incurring the penalty of disqualification for the service of their sovereign, in any office, civil or military.
9. “ In the year 1779, the 19th of his present majesty, an act was passed, in Ireland, For the relief of his majesty's faithful subjects, the protestant dissenters of that kingdom; whereby it is enacted, • That all and every person and persons, being protestants, shall and may have, hold, and enjoy, any office or place, civil or military, and receive any pay, salary, fee, or wages, belonging to, or by reason of, such office or place, notwithstanding he shall not receive or have received the sacrament of the Lord's supper, — without incurring any penalties — for or in respect of his neglect of receiving the same. The protestant dissenters of England, therefore, humbly hope, from the moderation and equity of the legislature, for the same just restitution of their civil rights, to which alone their application is confined.
“For these reasons the dissenters are induced to make an application to parliament for relief, humbly apprehending that their request will appear to be founded in justice, and that a compliance with it will redound to the honour of religion, will tend to the security and strength of the protestant interest, be conducive to the welfare of the nation, honourable to the king as the common father of his people, and no way injurious to any one subject in his majesty's dominions. Arguments, so weighty and cogent as those which have been represented, cannot, they trust, fail, in conjunction with the enlarged and liberal spirit of the times, to procure from the legislature the repeal of statutes, which can in no degree be considered as grounded on public necessity or public advantage.”
On the 28th of March, Mr. Beaufoy opened the business to the House in a long and able speech, and concluded, “ That this House will immediately resolve itself into a committee of the whole House, to consider of so much of the acts of the 13th and 25th of Charles the second, as requires persons, before they are admitted into any office or place in corporations, or having accepted any office, civil or military, or any place of trust under the crown, to receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper, according to the rites of the church of England.” Mr. Beaufoy was answered by Lord North, who had lately had the misfortune of losing his eyesight, and came down upon this occasion, for the first time in the session. Mr. Pitt followed Lord North, and took the same side of the question.
Mr. Fox, in a long and able speech, supported the motion for a committee. He observed, that however he might of late have been charged with the odium of coalition, that odium was not imputable to him that night; yet, if he had heard only one part of the argument of the right honourable the chancellor of the exchequer, unexplained by the other parts of his argument, he should have found himself in a coalition with him upon the grounds of that argument, namely, that it was right to oppose the repeal of a test, which shut out dissenters who would not allow that any establishment was necessary; but the right honourable gentleman had afterwards carried his arguments against all those who had applied indiscriminately. Mr. Fox then asserted, that the general conduct of the dissenters was praise-worthy, and that in all former times they had been actuated by principles of liberty not inconsistent with the well-being of the state. He then adverted to the argument of the right honourable the chancellor of the exchequer respecting the test, and endeavoured to shew, that religion was not a proper test for a political institution. With regard to the argument used by the right honourable gentleman to prove that those acts operated to exclude persons from corporations, though not from sitting in that House, he should contend that they had not that effect; that there were corporations which were entirely filled by dissenters, and that he knew of two such corporations. The mischiefs in Charles the second's reign arose not from the dissenters, but from the governing part of the church of England. He said, he was supported in this assertion by the authority of a great writer, Mr. Locke. The opinions of the heads of the church of England were not to be a rule for the political conduct of that House; for they were as decidedly against passing the bills which that House passed six or seven years ago in favour of the dissenters, as they were upon the present occasion. In deciding upon questions of that nature the electors of the representatives of the universities were likely to be warped more strongly than the electors of other representatives of that House: this was to be lamented; but he did not mean to cast any reflections upon the motives of their conduct. The church of Scotland had not found a test necessary there for the episcopalians. The right honourable gentleman had stated, that by this repeal the dissenters would not be obliged to contribute to the provision of the members of the church of England; it was absurd to argue that as a consequence; it did not follow: this motion went only to take off the seclusion of offices. Mr. Fox dwelt some time upon this point. He then asserted, that. the argument that there must be one establishment was absurd; two establishments might exist in one government; they actually did exist, and he instanced the church of England and the kirk of Scotland. He confessed that the test-act did not operate directly as a stigma upon the dissenters; but at least it carried, and it was a fair argument to say, that the dissenters
would be glad to be excused paying to the maintenance of the church.
Mr. Fox then said, What are you doing to secure the establishment of this constitution? You are taking religion as religion for a test in politics. He then combated the propriety of such a measure. With respect to clergymen giving or refusing the sacrament, he observed, that if the clergyman of the parish refused, he subjected himself to an action; and supposing that he found means to get through the inconveniences of the litigation, what was the consequence? Why, that having refused the man the sacrament, he had disabled him from being qualified to hold the office; for the man could not take the sacrament from another clergyman, and thus there was vested in the minister of a parish a power superior to that of any ecclesiastical court.
Mr. Fox then spoke of the principles which had governed the dissenters in this kingdom, and said, they were persevering and active in their application for redress of their injuries in former times; and if they used the same perseverance now, they could not fail of success; that he would advise them to repeat their applications till the legislature gave them that specimen they desired. He had considered himself honoured in acting with them upon many occasions; and if he thought there was any time in which they had departed from those principles which were inconsistent with the constitution of this country, he should refer that period to a very recent date indeed: on recollection of what had been their conduct upon that occasion, the House would at least do him the justice to say, that in supporting them that day he was not influenced by any very obvious motives of private partiality or attachment. Yet he was determined to let them know, that though they could upon some occasions lose sight of their principles of liberty, he would not upon any occasion lose sight of his principles of toleration; he should therefore give his vote for the motion; but at the same time observe, that if there could be any modification of the penalties without repealing much of the act, it might be matter of instruction to the committee, and perhaps would prove more palatable to the House; yet, as the matter stood at present, the right honourable the chancellor of the exchequer by opposing the motion might be said, though disclaiming persecution in words, to admit the whole extent of it in principle. The House divided on Mr. Beaufoy's motion : . Tellers.
Sir W. Dolben
NES Mr. Young § 176. So it passed in the negative.
fine iples whicould refer thathat h
Mr. Fox's MOTION FOR THE REPEAL OF THE Shop Tax.
April 24. THE tax imposed upon retail shopkeepers in the year 1785, was I strongly opposed at the time by the inhabitants of London and Westminster, as partial and unjust in its principle, and peculiarly oppressive in its operation upon those two cities. The following vear their members were instructed to move for its repeal ; and though the motion was rejected by a great majority, they continued, with unremitted perseverance, to take the most active and vigorous measures for securing success upon some future occasion. Meetings were held, associations formed, committees appointed, and a correspondence carried on with all the considerable towns and corporations of the kingdom; many of which, being proportionably sufferers, readily joined the capital in another application to parliament for relief. The business was this year committed to Mr. Fox. Accordingly, this day in pursuance of the notice he had given previous to the recess,
Mr. Fox rose, in order to make his motion for the repeal of the shop tax. He began a most ingenious and striking argument against the tax, by stating, that he had never been forward in opposing taxes, because he thought it the duty in general of members of parliament to support government in the arduous and invidious measures of finance; but at the same time that he entertained the opinion, he thought it equally impolitic to adhere to it in the extreme degree, and on no occasion whatever, even though a tax should appear, after experiment and fair trial, partial and oppressive, to consent to its repeal. Under this impression it was, and upon a full conviction that the shop tax was a personal tax, unjustly levied from a particular description of men, that he should move for its repeal. The shop tax he had ever heard stated by those who defended it, to be a tax not upon the shopkeeper, but the consumer of goods sold by the shopkeeper. That he had ever peremptorily denied, and experience had proved beyond all possibility of doubt, that he was right in the denial.
Mr. Fox proceeded to urge all the arguments which he had formerly brought forward, to prove that the tax was not in fact, what it was called, but an additional tax upon housekeepers whose houses had shops annexed to them. He manifested the particularly unjust way in which the tax pressed upon the metropolis and its environs, by stating, that the whole sum assessed for the shop tax amounted to 59,00ol..