Imatges de pÓgina
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your God.' That is all Dissenters of any kind. They have no right to expect exemption from any censures which may be justly due to their intellectual, moral, or social deficiencies, but they may reasonably ask that these shall not be assumed to be inherent in their Dissent.

I can easily anticipate the kind of taunt to which such complaints of the political equality entailed by Dissent will expose me. But I have yet to learn that there is anything ignoble in the ambition to enjoy the full rights of an Englishman, or anything unworthy in the attempt to get rid of the stigma which the law affixes to an adherence to the religious principles which I hold. I can conceive, indeed, of circumstances which might lead us, as Nonconformists, to refrain from urging what we nevertheless hold to be our undoubted right. To all men of high principle the interests of truth, of freedom, of religion, of patriotism, must be of far more importance than any personal considerations, and they will rather subordinate the latter than risk the former. So, though it would be hard to convince us that a system of injustice can be an instrument of good, yet if it could be proved that the overthrow of the Establishment would be likely to result in an amount of evil to the country for which the redress of any grievance that presses on us would be a very inadequate compensation, we must be content, as Christian patriots, meekly to bear the cross which the nation thinks it necessary to lay upon us.

But this is exactly what we cannot see. The mischief that springs from the separation of the people into hostile armies-the one enjoying special privileges conferred on them by the State solely because of their religion, and the other smarting under the sense of the injustice thus inflicted upon them-must be patent to all who know anything of English society, and most of all to those who are at all familiar with the bitter antagonism thus induced in small towns, where the strength of parties is pretty equally balanced, and where the lines of social division are those of ecclesiastical or political difference, and where, therefore, influences which otherwise might soften the asperity of the strife are almost unfelt. Whether the keen partisanship of such places as these, in which everything, from the election of a member of Parliament to that of an assistant overseer, affords an occasion for a sectarian strife, or the absolute stagnation of villages where the overpowering influence of the rector and the squire represses all freedom of thought, and treats any sign of Dissent as an offence to be put down by such means as the law will tolerate, is the greater scandal to the country, it would be difficult to say. But both of them will continue so long as a State Church survives. Not only must human nature lose all that is most characteristic of it, but our true English manhood must be stripped of the attributes which have secured for it most admiration-its passion for independence, its love of freedom, its hatred of injustice-before any body of religionists VOL. I.-No. 3.

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will tamely submit to be treated as inferiors solely because of their opinions. They may be cowed into silence where they have not power for active resistance; but that sullen submission, behind which is a reserve of intense excitement, is hardly preferable to the more open and determined opposition where the battle can be fought on more equal terms, and if even this passive condition has not been secured without the crushing out of all activity of thought, the evil done cannot easily be calculated. Of one thing Churchmen may be assured, that the dissatisfaction among Nonconformists is all but universal, and it is not always the feeblest where it finds least expression.

The positive grievances which the Establishment now inflicts are not numerous; but, unfortunately, that which is most prominent, among the few for which the strenuous efforts of Nonconformists have not yet been able to secure redress, is one which touches most deeply the most sacred feelings, and the resistance which the clergy are offering to its removal is of a kind specially calculated to exasperate. The Primate, no doubt, intended to show broad sympathies and to take a liberal tone in his speech on the first reading of the Duke of Richmond's Burials Bill, that marvellous attempt to satisfy a people smarting under a sense of wanton injustice by offering them a new insult. He succeeded only in demonstrating his inability to understand Dissenters altogether. His proposals were weak and unsatisfactory enough, but even had they been more adequate to the necessities of the case, he would have prejudiced them by the suggestion that they would be acceptable to the large majority of sensible Nonconformists. Everyone knows what the term means on his grace's lips, and those whom he intends to compliment are far from feeling themselves flattered by the invidious distinction which he seeks to set up on their behalf. His grace speaks as one invested with ecclesiastical authority, and they are sensible Nonconformists who are prepared to accept without murmuring the supremacy of the Church of which he is the chief ruler. His speech is an expression of that spirit of ascendency against which Nonconformists are contending far more in the interests of the nation than in those of their particular churches. I do not believe that Congregationalism will secure any sectarian advantage by means of disestablishment. I am not at all certain that, for a time, it will not suffer some detriment. But I do believe that the work of all Churches, and not the least that of the Episcopal Church herself, will derive an incalculable benefit from the termination of those heartburnings and strifes of which a system of ecclesiastical privilege is the fruitful parent, and which do more to hinder the progress of religion than is supposed by optimist bishops, and that the strength and glory of the nation will be indefinitely augmented by the completion of the great edifice of civil and religious liberty in the establishment of perfect religious liberty.

An able and excellent clergyman in Hackney, the Rev. John Oakley, in whose heart are the instincts of the truest liberalism, bore indirect but very powerful testimony to the truth of this view in a letter which he wrote after his defeat at the recent School Board election-a defeat, let me say, which many of his opponents regretted, but which, as he himself evidently felt, was less disastrous than would have been his success as the representative of a party with which, though publicly identified, he had no vital sympathy. He spoke, in language which did credit both to his courage and his wisdom, of the suspicion which had dogged his steps through the whole of his canvass, and of which he was conscious that he was undeserving. He suffered as the representative of a Church whose supremacy was. widely resented, and the result of his experience, as given by himself, was very significant. As a true servant of Christ, he valued the confidence of the people, among whom he was to work, far more than any adventitious advantages which the patronage of the State could confer, and did not hesitate to express the feeling. Nor is it confined to him alone. His readiness to sacrifice the Establishment, if it can be shown to hinder his high ministerial service, is shared by numbers of the younger clergy, and is a sign of the setting of that stream of tendencies' which makes even the Bishop of Gloucester anxious as to the future. It is only one of the many proofs that the new life of the Church is too vigorous for the safety of the Establishment.

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The bishop, indeed, throws out a hint intended for the encouragement of those who are impatient under the restraints at present imposed upon them, and it is not the least suggestive point in his article. High Churchmen are invited to wait for the judgment of the Judicial Committee in the Folkestone case, and significantly told that that case may not, after all, terminate so very hopelessly to High Church interests as may be generally assumed.' Absit omen! will be the cry of multitudes of earnest Protestants in the land. But even if the prophecy be verified, the bishop will have little on which to congratulate himself. If there really be the concessions which he suggests, sacerdotalism will become stronger, and he admits that nothing could be more fatal to the interests of the Church of England. It would certainly intensify the prejudices by which Mr. Oakley and his friends are so properly distressed. It would make Nonconformists who are now active more earnest than ever, and would force into aggressive hostility numbers who now are silent sympathisers with the Liberation Society. It might cause even those who are so fond of telling us that the Establishment is the only safeguard against priestly tyranny to doubt the soundness of their position. In short, it might avert the danger of the hour, but only to create others far more serious.

J. G. ROGERS.

THE ABUSES OF A LANDED GENTRY.

I AM only in part responsible for the title of this paper. There was a discourse delivered in Edinburgh during the autumn which had the same title with the exception of a single syllable. Mr. Froude held forth On the Uses of a Landed Gentry,' and called upon all men to accept and admire the laws and customs which have led to the present distribution of the British soil. It seems to me that the most mistaken and unpatriotic attitude which a public man can assume with reference to our land-system is one of easy contentment. I do not for a moment allege against Mr. Froude the conscious betrayal of the interests of his countrymen. Diligent in research, picturesque and powerful in literary display, he is probably shortsighted in the region of practice. He is profoundly distrustful of all popular movements. He is an apostle of the gospel of force. Mr. Froude has no confidence in the policy of extending the ownership of land, perhaps because of his declared conviction that the philosophy of progress is false in its principles.

I am constrained to suppose that Mr. Froude believes the actual distribution and apportionment of the soil of this country have the approval of Divine Power. In the fact that 523 noblemen hold in disability for they are only life-tenants-one-fifth of the United Kingdom, I think he recognises high purposes of the Creator. I am sure I should respect Mr. Froude's creed if I comprehended it, but for my own part I have never been able to fathom that which appears to me the presumption of men who profess to discern the decrees of an Almighty God. I would as soon seek the aid of juggling spiritualists in regard to the politics of the dead as the counsel of such men for the direction of the living. Mr. Froude has told us that the conditions under which human society will cohere harmoniously are inherent in the nature of things; and human laws are wise or unwise, just or unjust, so far as they are formed on accurate discernment of the purposes of the Maker of the world.'' He does not tell us who are the high-priests of these oracles. We are only warned that this power of accurate discernment is not in the people. He looks upon

1 English in Ireland, vol. iii. p. 1.

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the development of representative government as the growth of an idol of spurious freedom.' He believes in heaven-born men who scorn the vor populi. As for the multitude, who are slaves to their own ignorance, they will choose those to represent them who latter their vanity and pander to their interest.'3 But, I should like to ask, was it not the heaven-born' men-men of that past which Mr. Froude loves so well-who held the multitude in slavery to their own ignorance; and is the provision of universal education -which is always a first demand of the multitude, and is nowhere established until the multitude have been enfranchised-is universal education an improper pandering to their interest?

I wish some better man had stepped forward to rebuke this audacious philosophy, which proclaims in the face of history, glaring all the while with contradiction, that when the possession of power is the property of few, they will be less eager in the pursuit of selfinterest than the many-which, in violation of the precepts of every writer on Political Economy, from Adam Smith to Mill and Cairnes, ventures to assert that the distribution of land in this country is the result of economic laws as absolute as the law of gravity.'4

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We will pass now to consider what is the actual distribution of land in Great Britain, and in this matter we shall derive no small assistance from the returns recently made public in Blue Books which are commonly known as the New Domesday Books.' Pre-eminently these returns establish the fact that the soil of Great Britain is held by the landed gentry. The island is virtually in possession--I do not say of country gentlemen, because, through no fault of their own, they are not owners-in possession of the families which they represent. This cannot be regarded as an exaggerated statement of the facts when it is observed that 12,791 persons are returned as owners of four-fifths of the soil of this island, their aggregate property, exclusive of that within the metropolitan boundaries, being 40,180,775 acres. This, I say, is the return; but, in fact, the number of owners upon that immense area is much less than 12,000, and if we could get at the truth it would not surprise me to learn that the number of socalled owners of four-fifths of the soil of Great Britain is nearer 5,000 than 10,000.

To begin with the nobles, of whom there are about 500. Onethe Duke of Buccleuch-is counted as 14 landowners in this total, his grace having estates in no fewer than 14 counties in this island. There are four peers who are returned as 44 landowners, because these noblemen-the Dukes of Devonshire and Cleveland, the Earl Howe, and Lord Overstone-each appear on the roll of 11 counties. Thus we have five persons returned in these New Domesday Books as 58 landowners; and if we include the Duke of Bedford, who has land in

3 P. 4.

2 English in Ireland, vol. iii. p. 3.

Mr. Froude On the Uses of a Landed Gentry.'

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