« VorigeDoorgaan »
BICKERSTETH ON THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES.
speakable value, that the more it is assailed, the more we shall cling to it as the very truth of God-as a part of that divine panoply in which the man of God must be clad, that he may“ be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, yet stand.” “ It is so mighty a weapon against him, when grasped by a firm and scriptural faith, that we need not be surprised at Satan's varied efforts to hinder its use." The attack will probably become more and more fierce : but “blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein : for the time is at hand.”
We repeat that we feel ourselves under great obligations to Mr. B. for his frequent calls to the study of this blessed book, and not least for the one which we have thus hastily reviewed. We will only add his own prayer
May the gracious Lord prosper this effort to the good of his Church!"
A LETTER TO THE LORD BISHOP OF CASHEL. By
BAPTIST W. Noel, M.A. London: Nisbet. 1845. THE QUARTERLY REVIEW, No. CLI. Art. IRELAND,
London: Murray. 1845.
We hoped to have gained, with the approach of autumn, a cessation from politics, economical or religious; and to have had leisure to bring up arrears of other and more profitable questions. But this
, it seems, is not to be. A topic, which is in one sense new, and in other senses fifty years old, is forced upon us.
The principal periodical,—the only really official organ of the government, --the Quarterly Review, has chosen this moment for the agitation of the proposition of A STATE PROVISION FOR THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CLERGY, a proposition which it correctly describes as " the greatest and most important question that this country has had to decide since the Revolution.” It further adds, that "the
question cannot be evaded, and we feel that the discussion must "end in its accomplishment." Under these circumstances, our readers will surely hold us justified in at once grappling with so fearful a danger; and in forthwith endeavouring to put them in possession of the whole views and purposes of the enemy.
The article in the Quarterly Review very naturally takes in a retrospect of the whole subject, from Maynooth onwards,-and we are thus drawn in, and almost compelled, to look once more at the reasonings by which the Bill which has just passed was justified. The task is irksome and disagreeable; but there may be some utility in surveying the whole question, as put before us, in a complete form, by the best writer whom the government could enlist in its defence. For, if anything were needed to assure us of the truth and justice of our opposition, it would be found in the singular weakness and worthlessness of this vindication.
The argument in justification of the Maynooth Endowment Bill is made up of the following considerations.
1. The opinion and views of Mr. Pitt :"No metaphor ever approached more nearly to literal accuracy than the description of Emancipation, Maynooth College,' and a State provision for the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland,' as the legacies of Mr. Pitt to his country; and wise or unfortunate, prudent or improvident, as these legacies may be deemed by different judgments—they must be paid.”—(p. 251.)
" The safest standard round which, in any great national emergency, the country can rally, is that of Mr. Pitt.”—(p. 254.)
" We really do not remember, in the annals of legislation and government, 80 extraordinary, so inexplicable a blunder as that we should have been, for
half a century, building on the design of a great political architect, and lamenting and wondering at the insufficiency, the instability, and danger of the superstructure, without discovering that we had totally forgotten his foundation. All that is now left for us is to shore it up, and to execute as best we may, in 1846 or 47, what Mr. Pitt proposed in 1799, and which in a lucid interval of forty-eight hours the House of Commons adopted in 1825." -(p. 289.)
Our answer to all this is, that the weight of Mr. Pitt's authority, with us, is considerably less than nothing. We have never regarded that politician as anything more than a man of great talent and
raised up by Divine Providence at a moment of peculiar need, for great protective purposes. But of anything like principle, in the full acceptation of the term, Mr. Pitt always seemed to us peculiarly destitute. In fact, he was taken from school, and thrust into office, at so early an age, that he lost all that opportunity of leisure for reflection, and for the excogitation of matured views, which most other men enjoy. Hence, of foundation-work, he always seemed very ignorant. He was turned into a master-builder, long before his education as a clerk of the works had been completed. In saying this, we are not indulging
any speculations of our own. The facts are open to all. For instance :
Is it not notorious that Mr. Pitt, at the opening of his career, was a member of the Duke of Richmond's Reform Club, and was almost a Radical Reformer? And is it not equally certain, that twenty years afterwards he prosecuted men, even to imprisonment and transportation, for advocating the very same views ?
Again :- It is quite certain that in 1792 Mr. Pitt had no intention whatever of engaging in a war with France. In the Recollections of John Nicholls, Esq., it is observed, that
" There is full proof that, down to the close of the year 1792, Mr. Pitt had no intention to abandon his pacific system. In the summer of 1792, towards the close of the session, he said in the House of Commons, · England never had a fairer prospect of a long continuance of peace than she has at the present moment. I think we may confidently reckon on peace for ten years. But my opinion of his pacific intentions does not rest on his expressions in parliament. Before the close of the session in 1792, the three per cents. had risen almost to par. Mr. Pitt saw that this gave him an opportunity of reducing £32,000,000 of four per cents. He negotiated with the holders, but they demanded a larger bonus than he chose to give; and he closed his treaty with them by saying, “Then we will put off the reduction of this stock till next year.'
Can any man believe that Mr. Pitt would have used this language, if he had at that time intended to take part
in the war ? * * * But, in the close of the year 1792, Mr. Burke (himself a Whig) prevailed with the great Whig families to declare for war with France.”—(vol. i. p. 136.) Again he says :
"Mr. Pitt wisely restrained this country from interfering in the affairs of France. But towards the close of 1792, Mr. Burke had sufficient influence over the great Whig families to induce them to concur with the king in clamouring for a crusade against French principles. Mr. Pitt was unable to resist; and that he might retain his situation as minister, he was under the necessity of receiving the great Whig families into his cabinet, and of embarking the country in the crusade.”_(vol. č. p. 200.)
But we need not go beyond the present number of the Quarterly Review, to prove the instability,—the entire want of principle, apparent in Mr. Pitt. With an extraordinary degree of infatuation, amounting almost to blindness, does the writer introduce, at page 251, the following note :
" The first indication we have of Mr. Pitt's policy towards Ireland we find in his correspondence with the Duke of Rutland, when Lord Lieutenant. In a letter to his Grace of the 7th of October, 1784, we find the following curious passage. After saying that he was disposed to give Ireland a perfect equality of commercial advantages, he adds—and if such a line can be found-such a prudent and temperate Reform of Parliament as may guard against and gradually cure real defects . . . . . and may unite the Protestant interest in excluding the Catholics from any share in the representation or the government of the country:'-Correspondence, p. 40. The italics are Mr. Pitt's; and the sentiments will startle those of our readers who have not seen the work (which was printed only for private circulation), and may have overlooked the passage in our extracts from it (vol. lxx. p. 299); and it grows particularly curious when we recollect that in about three years after, he opened those communications with the Committee of the English Roman Catholics which led to his own Relief Bills of 1791 and 1793, and laid the foundation of all the subsequent agitation, and have produced a state of things the very converse of Mr. Pitt's original idea, by almost excluding '--not the Catholics, but the Protestants, 'froin any share in the representation' of Ireland.”
Thus, in twenty lines, he proves, that Mr. Pitt adopted one policy in 1784 and a directly opposite policy in 1791: and after shewing us all this, he adds, strangely enough, that “honest and “honourable Conservatives can hardly hesitate to agree, that the " safest standard round which the country can rally, is that of " Mr. Pitt ;"—or, in another place, “the standard wielded by the "firm hand of Mr. Pitt."
It is necessary sometimes to speak the truth with plainness; and
as Mr. Pitt's name is introduced as furnishing a decisive argument, we feel it right to state our belief, that Mr. Pitt was never properly instructed in, and, in fact, never knew, with any distinctness or accuracy, even the main outlines of Christianity : and consequently, when compelled by circumstances to deal with 1845.
Papists and Protestants, he knew little more about the matter than that these were the names of two great sections of the Christian world; the one of which believed in purgatory and penance, and the other did not.
All that remains on record of his religious views, proves his mind to have been in the most illinformed state. Mr. Wilberforce mentions, that Bishop Tomline had made him believe, that all the evangelical clergy were mere scoundrels. And it is well known, that on Mr. W.'s persuading him, one Sunday, to go with him to hear Mr. Cecil, his only remark was, that he " could not understand the preacher.” The fact being, that he knew not even the elemental principles of Christianity. How could he, then, properly estimate the differences bet
een Protestantism and Popery? Or where is the wonder, if we find him resolved to discountenance Popery in 1784, and endeavouring to promote it in 1791.
A late writer of Memoirs of Lady Hester Stanhope (Mr. Pitt's sister), quite confirms this deplorable view. He says,
He says, “I happened to observe that I had read an account of Mr. Pitt's last moments, in Gifford's Life of him, and that his dying words, praying for forgiveness through the merits of his Redeemer, or words to that effect, together with the whole scene of his deathbed, appeared, as I thought, too much made up, and too formal to be true : leaving the impression that the author, and those from whom he gathered his information, had considered it a duty to make the close of a great man's life conformable to their religious feelings, rather than to facts and reality. “Who is it that says it of him ?' asked Lady Hester. 'Dr. Pretyman and Sir Walter Farquhar.'-'Oh! it's all a lie !' she replied, rather indignantly :Dr. Pretyman was fast asleep, when Mr. Pitt died: Sir Walter Farquhar was not there ; and nobody was present but James. I was the last person who saw him except James, and I left him about eight o'clock, for I saw him struggling as if he wanted to speak, and I did not like to make him worse.' After a short pause, she resumed :- What should Mr. Pitt make such a speech for, who never went to church in his life? Nothing prevented his going to church when he was at Walmer : but he never even talked about religion, and never brought it upon the carpet.'”
Nor can we indulge in much better hopes of Sir Robert Peel; though it is true that he has enjoyed more leisure for study; and has more largely investigated the respective theories of the two Churches. Stilí
, however, no distinct principle seems to have fixed itself in his mind. In March, 1827, we find him saying, in the House of Commons, of Popery, that, “ When he saw such a “ mockery of all religion as this was, resorted to in order to prop