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clared to be void. This being the full Import of the faid Act at present, it is upon that Foot a Measure must be taken, what and how much the intended Bill would have enacted new upon this Head ; it cannot be amiss here to observe, that the Corporation Act was the first after the Restoration, which directly affected the Diflenters 'as such.
Now in Corporations, there are many Ofices of a private and inferior Noture, (which cannot be fully specified, because they are so various in the respective Boroughs) whereon the Safety of the State does not appear manifesily to depend, but regard only the Affairs of the particular Town within itself. Some of these are Freeholds, and many of them the whole Subsistence of Families, which have been obtained by Purchase or long Services, or attained by Custom of Course. Several of these the Diljenters are now poJeffed of, and perhaps bave enjoyed many Years, under an Obedience to all such Terms as the Law nožo in Being has prescribed ; and to despoil Men of their Freeholds and Poffeffrons by a new Law, without Imputation of any Crime ; and when the Security of the Government does not appear manifestly concerned, is sure among Eng. lishmen very hard.
That the Diffenters at this Day are not disaffected to the Queen and established Government, nor chargeable with Rebellion past, nor meditating new Troubles, or any Ways dangerous to the State, (under which Cha"racters the Corporation Act considered them) the Preamble of this very Bill now in Debate does intimate : For it asserts, That the Act in the firjt Year of the Reign of the late King William and Queen Mary, of ever-glorious Memory, entituled, An At for exempting their Majesties Protestant Subje&ts, . dissenting from the Church of England, from the Penalties of certain Laws, was in due Confideration, that Persecution for Conscience only was contrary to the Profeffort of the Christian Religion and Doctrine of the Church of England.
If then the Disenters, under an Obedience to all such Terms as the Law now in being bas prescribed, do possess many inferior Offices in Corporations, which the present Bill, when passed into an Act, would immediately seclude from ; besides those in the Magistracy, the Navy, the Customs, the Excise, the Royal Houshold, and others, which, under the Head of the Test-Act, it would also deprive them of, then (sure enough) it takes from the Diflenters what they enjoyed before by Law: And is not this to enact something new? Moreover, the Dissenters at any Time, upon the present Terms of conforming, are now admittable to any Office of what Quality foever in the Kingdom ; but by this Bill they would have a total Incapacity put upon them, in respext to those under the Test and Corporation- Axts above-mentioned. Which Incapacity, after the first offence, would extend to Offices of Inheritance, and in the Forests, Non-Commission Offices in the Fleet, and many more, such as neither the Test or Corporation-Acts, or any other, ever did, or intended to exclude them from.
It has been already insisted, That all the Offices, wherein the Safety of Church and State are manifestly concerned, are comprehended coithin the Test, VOL. III.
and that the inferior Offices in the Boroughs do not come under the fame Considerations ; to have therefore the same Reasons of State urged for an equal Animadversion upon the latter, seems very unequal ; for it brings great Difficulty on the Commercial Sort of Men, to argue on those Topicks, while they plead for no more than quiet Cohabitacion with their Neighbours. But if it be argued, that those poor Emoluments in the Boroughs, which che Safety of the Government might ( doubtless ) well enough indulge them, came within the Intent at least of the Corporation-Act to deny to the Diflenters, how should they judge of it but very severe, to have that Act to explained and enforced to their Disadvantage, that it should take place more in the Reign of her Gracious Majesty, than it has done in any Time preceding?
In this case the Diffenters do humbly apologize for themselves (as it imports them) that granting whatever was designed by this Bill, was the Intent then of the Corporation-Act, they do not now stand in the same Place the last Age did at the passing thereof; the present Generation it cannot be pretended have brought upon the Church and State Confusions, Ruin, and Desolation ; they have no Ways disturbed the Peace of either, but have, by Testimonies, inconteftible rewed, that neither their Principles or Pradlice are inconsistent with Monarchy, but contrariwise most conformable to the present Government and Settlement of the Crown, nor are there any evil Spirits Working of Rebellion among them. If therefore the Intent of the CorporationAct was built upon Reasons peculiar to that Time, they do entirely submit it to Consideration, whether a pursuing of the fame Intent now, and giving (by the negative Qualification and Penalties of this. Bill) an Extent and Force to it, which, in the Instirution, or since, it never had before, without any like Cause on their Part, would not be in the Nature of punishing che Innocent for the Sake of the Guilty, which they do not doubt will be far from fo wise, juft, and good a Government ; but the proposed Bill they conceive, upon the Head only of the Corporation-Act, would have brought upon them the extraordinary Hardships and Difficulties here fol
First, The Qualification for Offices being made to consist in the utmost Distance and Aversion unto them, will be a Brand of Ignominy and Reproach upon the wh le Body of Diffenters; so that an Emulation in casting Injuries and Contempt upon them may, in a little Time, be thought the best Recommendation, and nearest Way to Preferment; is it just therefore that the whole Body should suffer for the Sake comparatively of a very few, who have occasionally conformed?
Secondly, Reviving the Acts against seditious Conventicles in Part, and giving a new Force to that of the Corporations, they fear will give too much Occasion to Men of violent Tempers, to declaim that they lie stilt under the same odious Imputation of Disloyalty charged upon them by those Acts, as if they gave really any Manner of Jealousy to the State now ;
which Clamour (however causeless) when it shall be induftriously vented, would be in itself a very heavy Affliction.
Thirdly, The Freebolds and Offices of an inferior Nature, in 600 Towns of England, or thereabouts, which have been obtained by Purchase or long Services, or in Course, some of them the whole Subsistence of Families, and of long Time polesed, under an Obedience to all the Terms prescribed by Law, would not only be immediately lost by the Poffeffors, but an Incapacity would lye upon all Diffenters for the future, of attaining the like, and (after the first Offence) any other Offices in the Kingdom whatsoever ; but they hope the Crime charg'd upon some few of them, is not of so detestable a Nature that they ought all to be reduced to so unhappy a Condition for it.
Fourthly, In many Corporations the Elečtion of Members to serve in Parliament, is only in such as are concerned in the Government of them, and giving a Vote for a Representative in Parliament is the essential Privilege whereby every Englishman preserves bis Property; and whatsoever deprives bim of a Capacity for having such Vote, deprives him of his Birthright. The Magistracy of Corporations, which by the Teft-Act now takes place, is one Thing ; but the Offices affected by the new Bill would be quite another.
Fiftbly, There have been for several Towns and Cities Acts passed of late Years, for setting the Poor on Work therein, and punishing Vagrants, besides the former ancient Hospitals ; touching which the Diffenters are likely by this Bill to have been excluded the appearing usefully in their Places; which is a Mark of Dishonour on them, as well as Discouragement to charitable Intentions.
Sixtbly, To leave Proteftant Dilsenters subje&t to Fines and Penalties, if they do not accept Offices (toties quoties) and at the same Time if they do accept, to restrain them upon the severe Penalties of this Bill from doing what their Conscience obliges to, whether this would not (against the Intent of the Bill) be Perfecution for Conscience Sake, all good Men might be left to judge ; but they only would feel, and every Borough in England at Discretion be left to proportion the Degree.
Seventbly, The Dissenters have Reason to fear innumerable Injuries and Oppressions (besides these mentioned) would be their Lot, in all municipal Rates, Freedoms, Duties, Privileges, Services, Parilh-Offices, and every Sort of Intercourse with their Townsmen and Neighbours. When upon Complaint of any such Injuries, those Fellow-Citizens, who only have Power to do them Justice, are like to suffer in their own Reputations, Interests, and Employments, for so doing, as Favourers of the fanatical, excluded Party. · These Considerations of their Suffering, though they appear evident and unavoidable, are with all Candour and Resignation referr'd to the Judgment of ochers ; but the Dissenters must crave Leave to add, that they would be the more pungent and sensible upon Persons not chargeable by the Bill with any Offence, because, without Penal Laws, and their At
tendants, with the clamorous Insults of the prophane and designing, the very diffenting from the Publick is in itself (as to earthly Things) many Ways a Misfortune, which nothing but unpretended Conscience (however mistaken) would oblige them to.
Thirdly, The Penalties, which are the last part of the Bill, shall be confider'd under three Heads. First, What Suitableness there is in them to the Act of Indulgence. Secondly, What Proportion between the Protestant Diflenters and Popish. Thirdly, What Danger from thence to the Innocent.
First, For che Suitableness there is in these Penalties to the Act of Indulgence; it may sure be granted, that the good Effects of Liberty 10 tender Consciences are every where visible, that the foregoing Bitterness and Animofities are much calmed, the Disenters brought to a Temper of Respect, and more Candour towards the Church, and the Church fatisfied by suficient Experience, that the Freedom of others does not lessen ber Security and Reputation. Thus is our Sion at Unity within berself, and the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace ( according to the Prayer of our Church) preferu'd. One cannot therefore lay to Heart the Peace of our Jerusalem without some Concern, lest the Severities of this Bill fhould contribute to disturb it; for besides that it would dispoffess immediately Persons legally vested with Places, and affect many Offices, which no Law did before, and many Ways be injurious in the Boroughs, and leave Men to occasional Perfecution for Conscience Sake, and be a Brand upon all Assemblies. of Disfenters, as already has been instanced ; there are in it fome further Peculiarities of Punishment.
Before the Aet of Indulgence, while Conventicles were illegal and criminal Assemblies, even then a Man in Office, who was present at them, was only liable to a Fine of ten Pounds ; whereas by this Bill be is liable to a Fine of a hundred Pounds, and five Pounds per Diem, for three Months, besides Loss of bis Place. The Sum you see inay amount to 550 l. which is more than would need to beggar some Thousands of Corporations, and other Officers in England would be liable to it, and the more in Danger, because the whole Sum goes to the Informer, which is good Booty for that Sort of Privateers; and the rather, when a Conviction on this Bill would not be fo difficult as in most other Cases.
The Dissenters, during the worst of their Prosecutions heretofore, upon a visible Conformity, without Renunciation or declared Abhorrence of their former Practice, were at any Time capable of Places of Profit and Trust, but this Bill draws over all their Heads a dismal Cloud of Incapacity. None will deny but a lotal Incapacity to serve his Prince and Country is a Mark of bigh Infamy; so that, next to the Loss of Life, it seems the heaviest Punishment; and in the several Towns corporate of England (which may probably be fix or seven hundred) to be rendered by Law incapable of ever acquiring the Suppart of any of those little Places which appertain to them, besides those of Profit under the Head of the Test- Act, and those many more (upon Convillion) which ne Law yet bas ever affected, is altogether (if consider'd) a very un
bappy Condition; but after the immediate Forfeiture of all the several Offices, now legally possess’d by the Dissenters, upon the Palsing of this Bill, then a Person might still go to a Meeting, without Breach of any Law (as long as the Toleration continues) and one would think such a Man were bonus & legalis bomo, and capable of the Privileges of a free-born Subject, and at Liberty to provide for his Family and Maintenance ; but to impose a severe Censure on any Action allowed by Law, seems very unreasonable. However that be, there would remain upon all, and every Man of the Disfenters, an Incapacity not only as above, but (after the firit Offence) for any Office or Imploy. ment whatsoever within the Kingdom ; in which Regard this Bill would extend to Offices of Inheritance, and in the Foreits, Non-Commission Offices in the Fleet, with many more, which neither the Test or Corporation-Acts, or any other, ever could affect, or ever intended so to do.
As to the Shame and Incapacity of one convicted upon this Bill; that is to say, before he ever again could enter by Grant or Election, into any Office or Imployment within the Kingdom of England, he must, at the next Quarter-Sessions of the County where he resides, or in one of her Majesty's Courts at Westminfter, in publick and open Court, make Oath in Writing, that within the Year foregoing, be bas not once been present at any Conventicle, but has three Times at the least received the Sacrament at the Church; which Oath is to be kept upon Record. This would not be so much worthy of Consideration, nor the Aggravation of the Sentence on a second Offence, (as a Relapse and A postacy) it the Value of the Forfeiture, and Easiness of Conviction, did not put too much Hazard on the Innocent, even after such Purgation, as well as before it.
Secondly, The Proportion by the Penalties of this Bill, between the Protestant and Papiit, is to be scanned by two Ways. First, By examining whether they are equally liable to Loss of Offices, and suffering the Punishments. 2dly, What Difference there is otherwise. For the first, the Test being more exprefly contrived to reject all Popish Recusants, and the Complexion of the Times since the grand Revolution not favouring them, every Man will agree with me, that the immediate Loss to them upon passing this Bill would be nothing, they have no Concern in the Matter ; but on the other Hand, the Diflenters (under the Terms bitherto required by Law) do poffefs many Offices, as has been distinctly intimated, the first Loss to them thereupon would upon many Accounts be very considerable. Now for the Punishments sufferable by this Bill, the Dissenters enjoying a Liberty upon Condition of open Doors, a Conviction would at all Times be more feasible upon them than the Papists, who are enforced to conceal their Worship by other Laws, Furthermore, the Nature of the Protestant Worship requires all their Attendants at once, whereas that of private Masses need not engage above Five, besides the Family, in the same Initant. Thus the Papist would not be so exposed to the Forfeitures, Fine and Incapacity, as the Protestant.
The Difference otherwise between the Popilh and Protestant Diflenter is no more than this ; that whereas the Teit-Act did more exprefly intend the