Billeder på siden

"ligion. When that was once done, it seemed a Mr. Burke, more indifferent thing of what fide or form they "continued outwardly." If this was then the ecclefiaftic policy of France, it is what they have fince but too much reafon to repent of. They preferred atheism to a form of religion not agreeable to their ideas. They fucceeded in destroying that form; and atheifm has fucceeded in deftroying them. I can readily give credit to Burnet's ftory; because I have obferved too much of a fimilar spirit (for a little of it " is much too much") amongst ourselves. The humour, however, is not general.

The teachers who reformed our religion in England bore no fort of resemblance to your prefent reforming doctors in Paris. Perhaps they were (like those whom they opposed) rather more than could be wifhed under the influence of a party spirit; but they were most fincere believers; men of the most fervent and exalted piety; ready to die (as fome of them did die), like true heroes in defence of their particular ideas of Christianity; as they would with equal fortitude, and more cheerfully, for that stock of general truth, for the branches of which they contended with their blood. These men would have difavowed with horror those wretches who claimed a fellowship with them upon no other titles than those of their having pillaged the persons with whom they maintained controversies, and their having despised the common religion, for the purity of which they exerted themfelves

B 3

Mr. Burke. felves with a zeal, which unequivocally bespoke their highest reverence for the substance of that fyftem which they wished to reform. Many of their defcendants have retained the fame zeal; but (as lefs engaged in conflict) with more moderation. They do not forget that juftice and mercy are fubftantial parts of religion. Impious men do not recommend themselves to their communion by iniquity and cruelty towards any defcription of their fellow creatures.


We hear these new teachers continually boasting of the fpirit of toleration. That thofe perfons fhould tolerate all opinions, who think none to be of eftimation, is a matter of fmall merit. Equal neglect is not impartial kindness. fpecies of benevolence, which arifes from contempt, is no true charity. There are in England. abundance of men who tolerate in the true fpirit of toleration. They think the dogmas of religion, though in different degrees, are all of moment; and that amongst them there is, as amongst all things of value, a just ground of preference. They favour, therefore, and they tolerate. They tolerate, not because they defpife opinions, but becaufe they refpect juftice. They would reverently and affectionately protect all religions, because they love and venerate the great principle upon which they all agree, and the great object to which they are all directed. They begin more and more plainly to difcern, that we have all a common caufe, as against a common enemy. They will

not be fo mifled by the spirit of faction, as not Mr.Burke. to distinguish what is done in favour of their fubdivifion, from thofe acts of hoftility, which, through fome particular defcription, are aimed at the whole corps, in which they themselves, under another denomination, are included. It is impoffible for me to fay what may be the character of every defcription of men amongst us. But I fpeak for the greater part; and for them, I muft tell you, that facrilege is no part of their doctrine of good works; that, fo far from calling you into their fellowship on fuch title, if your profeffors are admitted to their communion, they must carefully conceal their doctrine of the lawfulnefs of the profcription of innocent men; and that they must make restitution of all stolen goods whatfoever. Till then they are none of ours.

You may suppose that we do not approve your confifcation of the revenues of bifhops, and deans, and chapters, and parochial clergy poffeffing independent estates arifing from land, because we have the fame fort of eftablishment in England. That objection, you will fay, cannot hold as to the confifcation of the goods of monks and nuns, and the abolition of their order. It is true, that this

particular part of your general confifcation does not affect England, as a precedent in point; but the reafon applies; and it goes a great way. The long parliament confifcated the lands of deans and chapters in England on the fame ideas upon which your affembly fet to fale the lands of the monaftic

B 4

Mr. Burke. monaftic orders. But it is in the principle of injustice that the danger lies, and not in the descrip tion of perfons on whom it is first exercised. I see, in a country very near us, a course of policy pursued, which fets justice, the common concern of mankind, at defiance. With the national affembly of France, poffeffion is nothing; law and ufage are nothing. I fee the national affembly openly reprobate the doctrine of prescription, which one of the greatest of their own lawyers tells us, with great truth, is a part of the law of nature. He tells us, that the pofitive ascertainment of its limits, and its fecurity from invafion, were among the caufes for which civil fociety itfelf has been inftituted. If prefcription be once shaken, no fpecies of property is fecure, when it once becomes an object large enough to tempt the cupidity of indigent power. I fee a practice perfectly correfpondent to their contempt of this great fundamental part of natural law. I fee the confifcators begin with bishops, and chapters, and monafteries; but I do not fee them end there. I fee the princes of the blood, who, by the oldest usages of that kingdom, held large landed estates (hardly with the compliment of a debate), deprived of their poffeffions, and, in lieu of their ftable independent property, reduced to the hope of fome precarious, charitable penfion, at the pleasure of an affembly, which of courfe will pay little regard to the rights of penfioners at pleasure, when it

* Domat.



defpifes thofe of legal proprietors. Flushed with Mr.Burke. the infolence of their first inglorious victories, and preffed by the diftreffes caused by their luft of unhallowed lucre, disappointed but not difcouraged, they have at length ventured completely to fubvert all property of all descriptions throughout the extent of a great kingdom. They have compelled all men, in all tranfactions of commerce, in the difpofal of lands, in civil dealing, and through the whole communion of life, to accept as perfect payment and good and lawful tender, the fymbols of their fpeculations on a projected fale of their plunder. What veftiges of liberty or property have they left? The tenant-right of a cabbage-garden, a year's interest in a hovel, the good-will of an alehouse, or a baker's fhop, the very shadow of a conftructive property, are more ceremoniously treated in our parliament than with you the oldest and most valuable landed poffeffions, in the hands of the most refpectable perfonages, or than the whole body of the monied and commercial interest of your country. We entertain an high opinion of the legislative authority; but we have never dreamed that parliaments had any right whatever to violate property, to over-rule prefcription, or to force a currency of their own fiction in the place. of that which is real, and recognized by the law of nations. But you, who began with refufing to fubmit to the most moderate restraints, have ended by establishing an unheard-of defpotifm. I find the ground upon which your confifcators go is

« ForrigeFortsæt »