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he labours in vain! see how he is toiling to no purpose !” But it is not to no purpose, whether the matter answers the present expectation or not; for it is never to no purpose that a man does his duty, and I hope to enjoy the satisfaction of having done my duty this day, come what will. But I know these gentlemen will begin to feel when we come to work upon the constituency; I know that a little practical work of that kind is likely to have more effect, and be more felt, than your noisy work among the ladies ; I know that the fact of some two or three thousand electors having signed the pledge, will be more to the purpose than the applause of this Hall. And I know very well that there is a movement going on at this time in the country, not much among the gentry as yet,—they are afraid of it.—but among the honest operative classes who have the franchise; and, Sir, according to the old phrase, “It is an ill wind that blows no one good.” The extension of the franchise by the Reform Bill has let down political power now to the most religious part of the community.
There is a movement going on, then,—I should not tell these gentlemen of it for fear they should try to stop it; but I must make it public. We have not time to lose, the election is so near. I took counsel with some friends whether I should tell anything about it. Some said, “It has been working admirably in quiet; do not speak of it publicly." “ Well,” said others, “ how shall we work it largely ? How shall we give notice ? And it was finally agreed among us, that after all, the time was so short and the thing so pressing, that it must be told, whether these gentlemen heard it or not. The principle of it has been already announced. It is simply that political differences in secular matters should be merged at the next election, and Protestantism be made the turning-point.
I hold in my hand a printed card, containing the pledge prepared for the electors, and I may just tell you that it has been signed by a good many, I will not tell you how many, because, indeed, I could not. I could tell up to a certain number, but what numbers have been gained since I could not venture to tell ; but it has been signed by many. It has been quietly, affectionately, carefully explained, from house to house among electors; and their intelligent co-operation in the matter has been gained by their full knowledge of what they are about, and their full acquiescence in the principle. It has been taken to Whigs, to Tories, to Free-traders, to Protectionists,--all sorts and shades of political partisans, and they have been asked to take this pledge:
“I, A. B., do hereby solemnly promise that at the next Parliamentary election I will give my vote (or votes) in favour of any candidate pledging himself to resist the endowment of Popery, and all its advances and claims, in preference to any other candidate whatsoever who will not give such pledge; and that I will not forego this my word for any private interest, or at the solicitation of any party whatsoever."
Now, Sir, I am not very sure whether all the persons who have signified their approbation by applauding this proposal, are fully aware of what it would lead to. I would ask a political Whig,— I suppose there are some such here,—a Free-trader, a man of liberal politics in everything, “ Are you prepared, in the event of candidates presenting
themselves at the next election, some of whom agree with you in all those questions, but refuse to take any pledge against Popery, and in the event of a Tory and Churchman, aye, even a High Churchman, presenting himself, who will take the pledge against Popery,-are you prepared to vote for him ? (“ Yes, yes; we will, we will.") And to the Tory, to the Churchman or High Churchman, I would say, Reverse the picture ; suppose candidates, Churchmen, honourable men, men of talent, men of rank, men of influence, men of station, men who, as Members of Parliament, could get your sons put into some situation,-suppose them to come forward, and to refuse to take the pledge; and suppose a new man, who had not been in Parliament hitherto, roused by this very thing to have hope of success, were to come forward and avow himself a Christian by the grace of God, candidly avow that he is a Whig, that he is a Free-trader, but takes this pledge against Popery, will you discharge your High Churchman that is not a Protestant, and will you vote for the Whig that is ?” (“ Yes, yes; we will, we will.")
Now, excuse me if I call you to practice again. In such a case as this, I can very well conceive one of my friends that I spoke of at the beginning calling out, “ Aye, and we'll do it too."
Since I left home, I have received one or two letters from influential gentlemen in the town of Liverpool, who are engaged with this card. One said,
“ My dear Sir, I have already been at work with the pledging cards, and a member of my congregation has worked so far very successfully. He has also worked quietly : the less noise about it the better. I will keep him and others at it more and more for some time to come."
Another writes, at the close of a letter on another subject,
“I have the card at work in my district, and will soon have a goodly array of signatures."
Now, this is what these gentlemen on the other side do not like, because this is really touching the sore place. And I want to show you that some practical good is to come out of this. Suppose it were to take effect only in a few places. I am not sanguine enough to expect success all over the country; that is hardly possible ; but I do expect success in some places. You will remember, Sir, that in some of the boroughs the majorities at the last election were very small, three, four, five,- in the City of London only five. Well, a few of such pledged electors as this would turn the election, sapposing everything else to remain as it was. Then, supposing some thirty or forty elections in the whole country, to be so carried, you, my dear Sir, would have some little encouragement,—you would have a little steady phalanx to act with you, and you not only would encourage one another, but, by stedfastness to the pledge, you would make the Minister, whoever he might be, feel that you were not to be tampered with; you would make him feel, every one of you, that the last clause in the card was not in vain, “ I will not forego my word for private interest, or at the solicitation of any party whatever.” “I will not forego my word, for the sake of getting a place under the Government, for example ; for the sake of getting a son or brother a colonial appointment, for example; for the sake of getting a measure passed
that will enhance my commercial or manufacturing interests, for example.” You would make the Minister, whoever he might be, feel that you were not to be tampered with ; and moreover, you would make him feel, that on a contested question he could not despise you; he would be compelled to feel, that there was a representation of the Protestantism of the country in Parliament.
And this is the proper antagonism to another scheme that has been going on. For see, Sir, how it works. At present there are pledged electors; there were pledged electors before the last election. Think you not that the electors who are Romanists, in every borough, are pledged electors ? And see you not how, under this state of things which has been existing, a Romish priest, or one of his emissaries, a lay brother,-might go into a Committee-room at three o'clock on the day of an election,-a contested election,--and might say to one of the candidates, “ Sir,"-or, my Lord, as the case might be, -“there is now about one hour more for the polling ; the poll stands, 250 and 260; I have got thirty votes in my pocket; they are all ready, waiting outside to vote for whomsoever I please. Now give me your Lordship’s word of honour, that if I send these men to vote for you, you will not oppose Catholic measures.” Gently; I said that loud enough; but it would be whispered in a Committee-room. The Noble Lord is almost in jeopardy if he refuses the solicitation of his lay brother; he knows there is another Committee-room over the way, and thinks within himself, “ Perhaps my friend may go over to the other Committee-room in five minutes; the tables will then be turned, and I shall be out of Parliament. That would be a sad mishap. Well, all that he asks is that I should not oppose Catholic measures ; I may put my own interpretation on that,—and it is not much of a pledge, after all; I had better tell him that I will.” And so he is handed up to Parliament, under the lash of this same lay brother, with the priesthood behind him, who will never tell one word about the matter so long as the Hon. Member does not oppose Catholic measures, but who would be ready, if he came out in a Protestant manner in the House of Commons, to appear against him with a little story out of the Committee-room, much to his disadvantage.
I dare say some people may think that this is ingenuity,—that I am inventing these things; but I can only tell you, that after all that I have read upon the subject, - after all that I have known,-after all that has been told me by Romanists themselves, who have come to me trembling, in peril from their priests, to ask protection and help from me,–I cannot now fancy one-tenth part of the chicanery by which the emissaries of Rome are endeavouring to deceive and entrap the Protestants of England. .
Now, Mr. Chairman, here is a card, and I should like very much to get signatures to it on the platforın. And further, I would request, that in the various localities where gentlemen will not only take these pledges themselves, but where they will invite the electors to take them, the matter may now be made thoroughly public,--that it may afford an inducement to Protestant gentlemen to come and stand as candidates. There is a difficulty, it seems, in procuring candidates ; I have spoken with some gentlemen myself upon the subject, and they have said, “Oh! we have no possible chance of success; and why
should we go and expose ourselves to the annoyance and expense, and all the other evils attending a contested election, without the slightest hope of success ?” But if they could be told that one or two thousand electors in a borough had taken the pledge, it would inspire in them such a fair hope of success as would be a reasonable inducement for them to come forward.
And is there any objection to such a pledge ? Now, Sir, I know that this is a touching point—the matter of pledges. I hate delegates; I like free representation ; and I would ask no gentleman to pledge himself in those matters of human policy which are fairly open for change, and on which a humble, free-thinking, upright man, may conscientiously change his opinion. Upon such questions I would ask no pledge. But, Sir, I think that Protestantism is not an open question ; and here is exactly the difference. We hold that this question between us and Rome is not an open one ; we hold that holy Scripture has closed it; and what we ask is, to have representatives of that opinion.
We say, gentlemen, we do not want you to pledge yourselves upon other points. You may, on any matter of human policy, be of one opinion now, and circumstances may arise to change that opinion next week or next month. In such matters our own minds may change also. But here is a question on which there has been spoken a word that cannot be changed-God's own Word; here is a question on which we do not admit the possibility of a Christian man changing his mind.
What! will you tie up a Christian in his religious sentiments ? Not on all points. Here, again, a distinction must be taken. There are points, and points connected with the outworks of religion too, concerning which a Christian man may change his mind. But can a Christian man so change his mind as to sanction bowing to an image ? I would ask. Can a Christian man so change his mind as to join in saying prayers to a woman, however blessed that woman may be? We “ call her blessed," and fulfil the prophecy, that “ all generations should call her blessed;" but it is one thing to “ call her blessed," and another thing to ask her to bless us. And I would ask, “ Can any English Christian change his mind upon the point of an undivided allegiance to an English Sovereign ?”
We hold, then, that this is a closed question, and that in asking a gentleman to bind himself here, we are not fettering him in his Parliamentary duties, as a free representative on every other subject.
But it will be asked, Sir (as it has been asked), “ Are you about to commit yourself? Suppose a Socinian come forward, and offers to take the pledge, will you vote for him in preference to a man who professes himself a Churchman, and refuses to take the pledge ?" There is a distinction between a moral and a political difference. I believe this card pledges the man who signs it to vote for any man who will take the pledge, however differing from the voter politically. But mark, he is only to vote for such a man in preference to a man who will not take the pledge. If the difference between him and the candidate be a moral one, he need not vote at all. A “moral " difference refers to what I have just alluded to—a Socinian candidate. If we had the misery of finding on the list of candidates that the only one who would take the pledge was a Socinian, we would bow before the will of God, and say, “ We will not vote at all.” If all the candidates took the pledge, then we should choose among them on other grounds, just as if no pledge were taken; but if one man will take the pledge and the others will not, then from no political difference should we shrink from voting for that man.
This is the basis of the compact; and if it be not honestly entered into with this understanding, it would be better not to enter into it at all, because it would be a misunderstanding and a deception. The pledge is, to give your vote in favour of any candidate pledging himself to resist the endowment of Popery, and all its advancements and elaims, in preference to any man whatsoever who will not give that pledge. But you will notice that there is not an absolute pledge to vote at all. However, when I say there is no pledge to vote at all, I think there is an absolute pledge to vote, if the difference be only political. I think honesty requires that from us in circulating the card.
In corroboration, Sir, of the great principle on which I ventured to ground this proposal—the intolerance of Rome-I would take the liberty, with your permission, if I do not weary the audience, to read · an extract from the “ Times” newspaper. It is headed, “ Protestant or Popish Ascendancy," and it runs thus :
" The question daily forced upon us by the indefatigable enemies of the Protestant religion, involving with it the most valuable and most sacred of all our civil institutions, is not, strictly speaking, the question of Popery, or no Popery. It is Popish subjection to the State, or Popish supremacy over it. If the Papists by the whole course of their political action have proved that the Romish religion and its ministers deem no condition of Popery worth their acceptance but that which enables them to domineer over and put down every other faith, why then it is they, and not the Protestants of this land, who put the alternative of Popery or no Popery.'”
It may be asked, Sir, how long is it ago since the “ Times” published this? That will be shown in the course of this extract
“ The Protestants are ready enough to tolerate Papists; but they will not tolerate us.”
Now, Sir, we have shown ourselves ready to tolerate --nay, more, to give freely ; the Protestant nation has shown herself tolerant-the Protestant Church has shown herself tolerant. What more would they have? They want more; there are Bills going on this very day in the House of Commons, aiming at more. I hope they will be stopped this very day too. They are not contented with what they have got. And what do you think they are aiming at now, in a Bill this very day before the House ? Legalizing bequests for certain pious uses, which our law holds to be unlawful, because superstitious. According to a Bill passed some years ago, a bequest was made for these uses, and, besides the uses mentioned in the Bill, was specified the saying of prayers for the dead. The matter came to be tried in our courts of law, and a decision was come to, that for certain things mentioned in the will, the bequest held in law, and was good; but for other matters mentioned, the bequest did not hold in law, because the things specified were superstitious. The object of this Bill is to remove that