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Mr.Mack its ecclesiastical servants with a portion of land, as the fource and fecurity of their penfions, they are in any refpect more the proprietors of it, than the other fervants of the ftate are of that portion of the revenue from which they are paid.

II. The lands of the church poffefs not the most fimple and indifpenfable requifites of property. They are not even pretended to be held for the benefit of thofe who enjoy them. This is the obvious criterion between private property and a penfion for public fervice. The deftination of the first is avowedly the comfort and happiness of the individual who enjoys it; as he is conceived to be the fole judge of this happiness, he poffeffes the most unlimited rights of enjoyment, alienation, and even abufe but the lands of the church, deftined for the fupport of public fervants, exhibited none of the characters of property; they were inalienable; because it would have been not lefs abfurd for the priesthood to have exercifed fuch authority over thefe lands, than it would be for feamen to claim the property of a fleet which they manned, or foldiers that of a fortrefs they garrifoned.

III. It is confeffed that no individual prieft was a proprietor, and it is not denied that his utmost claim was limited to a poffeffion for life of his ftipend. If all the priests, taken individually, were not proprietors, the priesthood, as a body, cannot claim any fuch right. For what is a body, but an aggregate of individuals? and what new right can be conveyed by a mere change of name?—Nothing



can fo forcibly illuftrate this argument as the cafe Mr.Mackof other corporations. They are voluntary affociations of men for their own benefit. Every member of them is an abfolute fharer in their property; it is therefore alienated and inherited. Corporate property is here as facred as individual, because in the ultimate analyfis it is the fame. But the priesthood is a corporation endowed by the country, and deftined for the benefit of other men. It is hence that the members have no feparate, nor the body any collective, right of property. They are only entrusted with the adminiftration of the lands from which their falaries are paid *.

IV. It is from this laft circumftance that their legal femblance of property arises. In charters, bonds, and all other proceedings of law, they are treated with the fame formalities as real property. "They are identified," fays Mr. Burke, "with the mass of private property;" and it must be confeffed, that if we are to limit our view to forms, this language is correct. But the repugnance of thefe formalities to legal truth proceeded from a very obvious caufe. If eftates are vefted in the clergy, to them most unquestionably ought to be entrusted the protection of thefe eftates in all contefts at law; and actions for that purpose can only be maintained with facility, fimplicity, and effect,

*This admits a familiar illuftration. If a landholder choofes to pay his steward for the collection of his rents, by permitting him to poffefs a farm gratis, is he conceived to have refigned his property in the farm? The cafe is precisely fimilar.



Mr. Mack- by the fiction of their being proprietors. Nor is this the only cafe in which the spirit and the forms. of law are at variance refpecting property. Scotland, where lands ftill are held by feudal tenures, will afford us a remarkable example. There, if we extend our views no further than legal forms, the Superior is to be regarded as the proprietor, while the real proprietor appears to be only a tenant for life. Such is the language of the charter by which he obtains a legal right to his eftate. In this cafe, the vaffal is formally ftript of the property which he in fact enjoys. In the other, the church is formally invefted with a property, to which in reality it had no claim. The argument of prescription will appear to be altogether untenable, for prefcription implies a certain period during which the rights of property had been exercifed; but in the cafe before us they never were exercised, because they never could be fuppofed to exift. It must be proved that these poffeffions were of the nature of property, before it can follow that they are protected by prescription; and to plead it is to take for granted the queftion in difpute. If they never were property, no length of time can change their

nature *.

V. When

* There are perfons who may not relish the mode of reasoning here adopted they contend that property, being the creature of civil fociety, may be refumed by that public will which created it, and on this principle they juftify the national assembly of France. But fuch a juftification is adverse to the principles of that affembly; for they have confecrated it as one of the first

in fh.

V. When the British Islands, the Dutch Repub- Mr. Macklic, the German and Scandinavian States, reformed their ecclefiaftical establishments, the howl of facrilege was the only armour by which the church attempted to protect its pretended property. The age was too tumultuous and unlettered for difcuffions of abstract jurifprudence. The clamour of facrilege feems, however, to have fallen into early contempt. The treaty of Weftphalia fecularized many of the most opulent benefices of Germany, under the mediation and guarantee of the first catholic powers of Europe. In our own island, on the abolition of epifcopacy in Scotland at the revolution, the revenues of the church peaceably

maxims of their declaration of rights, that the state cannot violate property, except in cafes of urgent neceffity, and on condition of previous indemnification. This defence too will not justify their felection of church property, in preference of all others, for refumption. It certainly ought in this view to have fallen equally on all citizens. The principle is befides false in the extreme to which it is affumed. Property is, indeed, in some senses created by an act of the public will; but it is by one of those fundamental acts which conftitute fociety. Theory proves it to be effential to the focial ftate. Experience proves that it has, in fome degree, exifted in every age and nation of the world. But thofe public acts which form and endow corporations, are subsequent and fubordinate. They are only ordinary expedients of legiflation. The property of individuals is established on a general principle, which feems coeval with civil fociety itself. But bodies are inftruments fabricated by the legislator for a specific purpose, which ought to be preserved while they are beneficial, amended when they are impaired, and rejected when they become useless or injurious.



Mr. Mack- devolved on the fovereign, and he devoted a pórtion of them to the fupport of the new establishment. When, at a ftill later period, the Jefuits were fuppreffed in moft catholic monarchies, the wealth of that formidable and opulent body was every where feized by the fovereign. In all these memorable examples, no traces are to be discovered of the pretended property of the church. The falaries of a clafs of public fervants are, in all these cafes, refumed by the ftate, when it ceases to deem their fervice, or the mode of it, ufeful. It is in none of them recognized as property. That claim, now fo forcibly urged by M. Calonne, was probably little refpected by him when he lent his agency to the deftruction of the Jefuits with fuch peculiar activity and rancour. The facredness of their property could not strongly impress him, when he was inftrumental in degrading the members of that accomplished society, the glory of Catholic Europe, from their fuperb endowments to fcanty and beggarly penfions. In all thefe contefts, the inviolability of church poffeffions was a principle that never made its appearance. A murmur of facrilege might, indeed, be heard among the fanatical or interested few but the religious horror in which the priesthood had enveloped its robberies, had long been difpelled, and it was referved for Mr. Burke to renew that cry of facrilege, which, in the darknefs of the fixteenth century, had refounded in vain. No man can be expected to oppofe arguments to epithets. When a definition of facrilege is given,


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