Page images

the possibility of an alien influence particularly hostile to the Church being admitted into these realms; while the Constitution is left unguarded from the coronation engagements being relaxed, and a popish influence introduced into the legislature, which exercises authority over the Church.

It falls not within the compass of my engagements, if it suited my views and powers, to enter. on the province of the politician, and discuss this great state question with reference to our foreign relations. For the general security, however, of the conclusion which I am engaged in establishing, I will so far preseme upon my very slender knowledge of our municipal laws, as to submit, whether they do not afford security, against every apprehension of danger? And I profess, it wholly fails me in the present emergency, if in the statutes of pramunire, a sufficient corrective bę not provided, for “the offence of introducing a foreing power into this land, and creating imperium in imperio,'* Nor. can I believe, that it ever entered the views, of the highly-endowed statesmen, under whose auspices, this great national measure promises ( if it is ever to pass ), to be matured and effected, that the consiitution should be dismantled of those ancient and massy bulwarks, which contribute not less to its strength, than its proportion.

1. In proceeding to examine the two branches into which the foreign influence inimical to our con-' stitution is generally divided; that arising from Jacobite intrigue, was never very alarming, and has now expired, with the last of the dynasty whose pretensions, it vainly endeavoured to uphold. But weak and inefficient as it proved, it served notwithstanding to prove the spirit with which the nation was resolved to repel every encroachment upon the

* Blacks. Com. IV. iii.

aloe D el ( 26 ) constitution. - For" to use the words of the learned writer, lately cited“ when King Charles's deluded brother attempted to enslave the nation, he found that it was beyond his power:. the people both could and did resist him, and in consequence of such resistance, obliged him to quit his enterprize and his throne together."* If in this miserable display of imbecility evaporated the sprit infused into the jacobite party, by the leader, who conferred upon it its importance and its name; it may be left to the reader to decide on the degree of respect which is due to the danger, that, in this formidable shape, may be thought to menace the constitution.

2. But, in the Papal influence, we are given to understand, there are reasonable grounds of apprehension. To form a just estimate of the magnitude of this objection, it may not be inexpedient to take a brief view of the origin and present state of the influence of the Roman Pontiff upon the continental politics.

From those writers who treat of the basis of the positive laws of the nations, which compose the great Republic of Europe, we learn, that no general connection existed between those nations, until the Romans united them under their Empire. The đecree of Caracalla laid the foundation of that union' which was strengthened, by the general reception of the Roman Civil Law, and the diffusion of the Christian Religion, For these I believe afforded the great cement, that consolidated the structure of power, within which the Church became entrenched : when on the destruction of the Empire of the East, the Pope, from having concentrated the influence of the hierachy in himself, contrived to get himself acknowledged spiritual head of the West, on ceding the honor of being temporal head to the Emperor.

Blackst, ibid.

Out of this union, and the authority of the Civil Law, which the secular power was but too well disposed to bring in aid of the ambition of .the Church, the inordinate power of the Popes arose; which, until the time of Charles V. kept all Europe under its spiritual thraldom... Of this power, however, the Emperor was the ground and pillar; the most oppressive measures which affected Europe, having proceeded from his authority. The period of this tyranny was however fixed, by the breaking out of the Reformation. The right of resisting it having been maintained, at the point of the sword, in the thirty years' war: it was at length formally recognised at the treaty of Westphalia; which, by poising the contrary religious interests distributed into opposite scales, effectually destroyed the preponderance of the Romish influence.

In the contrary and independent interests, which from this time have continued to divide Europe; nothing but the blindest bigotry can resist the conviction, that the Papal authority detached from its secular alliance with the Emperor, and conse, quently divested of its power, has progressively declined in its influence. The light and warmth which accompanied the dawning of the reformation, have diffused thoir genial effects to the most remote extremity of southern Europe ; from the banks of the Tagus to the shores of the Bosphorus. One striking effect of the total revolution which is operating in the opinions of the European population, is discoverable in the resistance every where manifested to the feudal system, upheld by the Civil Law; and the attachment to free constitutions and representative government, to which the writings of the philosophic school which were patronised by Frederick and Catherine, mainly

contributed. The Romish Clergy, have indeed attempted to oppose a resistance to this growing tide of opinion, the necessary result of moral and political causes operating as certainly as the laws of nature'; but it presents, to every reflecting mind, a prospect of success similar to that which would be Tikely to attend their efforts to set barriers to the ocean. In the Jesuits, a band was organised, for perpetuating and extending the spiritual tyranny of Rome ; but, notwithstanding the gigantic height to which it grew, and the immense power which it drew within its grasp, it was soon compelled to bow its reluctant neck to the force of popular opinion, which decreed its banishment from every corner of Europe. To a politic compliance with this tendency, though given in pledges which were generally evaded, the French ruler owed the extension of his Empire, who stripped the sovereign of the Church of the shadow of power, and confining his authority to the Bishopric of Rome, reduced it within its natural limits. And if we may take his own word, to the same cause he owed his own fall; on entering Elba, he bore this glorious testimony to the truth, “ that it was not the coalition which dethroned him, but liberal ideas.

If I am called upon, after giving this exposé, for a proper estimate and representation of the able and vigorous personage, who is the depository of that power which is to swallow up the constitution in Church and State ; I must beg to refer those alarmists, who, in fearing it, are doubtless inspired with some share of his infallibility, to one of the happiest efforts of the pencil of Hogarth. They will find it expressed to the life, in the grave person, who, in all the majesty of a paper mitre, occupies a conspicuous place in the Bedlam scene of the Harlot's Progress.

3. We at length arrive at the cardinal point on which the whole question has been held to turn, • the Parliamentary influence to be conceded to the Romanists; who, from the rooted prejudices of education and religion, must be utterly unfitted to legislate for the Church of England. On this thundering objection, it is rather amusing to have to observe, that after discharging a random shaft at the prerogative of the Crown, it pierces the vitals of the rights of the Church, over which their champion thus throws the protection of his logical ægis. .

That, it must be confessed, is rather a curious exertion of sagacity, which, in setting up the coronation engagements, as the great bar to the R. Catholic claims, overlooks their efficacy, in countervailing any tendency in the Parliament, were it wholly composed of Popish members, in the least encroachment upon the established religion. In one of the acts by which the royal prerogative is fenced round, the legislature decrees that, “ to assert maliciously and advisedly, by speaking or writing, that both or either House of Parliament have a legislative authority, without the king, is declared a præmunire.”* And by his coronation engagements, the King is solemnly pledged, under an oath, “ to preserve unto the bishops and clergy of this realm, and the churches committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges as by Law, do or shall appertain unto' them.+ I should be then grateful to be informed, where the force of the objection, or danger, menacing the establishment really lies; unless in the daring and traiterous insinuation, that His Majesty may violate his coronation engagements ?

But, unfortunately, it is a fact, that under the security of these engagements, no Protestant Par

* Blackst, Com IV. viii. + Id. ibid. I. vi.

« PreviousContinue »